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Guns & poses

 
 

Bullett Raja

Rating: 2.5

November 29, 2013

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Jimmy Shergill, Sonakshi Sinha, Chunky Pandey, Ravi Kissen, Raj Babbar, Vipin Sharma, Sharat Saxena, Vidyut Jamwal

Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia

In a scene early on in Bullett Raja, two thugs ruefully discuss how Raja (Saif Ali Khan) and his friend Rudra (Jimmy Shergill) wreaked havoc on their gang. One man tells the other, “Hamesha do log kyun hote hain? Sholay mein bhi do the.” This is typically sharp writing by Tigmanshu Dhulia; we immediately get a sense of two buddies, brothers-in-arms, so thick that nothing can come between them.

Up until the halfway mark, Bullett Raja is rollicking entertainment. Our gangster protagonists kill, maim, kidnap, and intimidate their rivals, all the while bickering and joking, in Dhulia’s direct nod to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Raja and Rudra meet by chance and are drawn into violence by fate. During a stint in jail, they are introduced to a fixer (Vipin Sharma) who advises them to become “political commandoes” for a UP leader (Raj Babbar). They soon become local heroes, but when they take on a nexus of political bigwigs, police, and industrialists, the two find themselves on a hit list. Sadly the film’s screenplay comes undone post intermission, its second half disintegrating into a bloody revenge saga.

Dhulia makes a hardcore action film, but coats it with local flavor and dialogue. Like Quentin Tarantino’s cinema, the violence has an irreverent, cheeky vibe – like that scene where Raja insists on killing a slimy politico from a distance of over 100 metres, just so he can break another shooter’s record. This is one of many sparkling moments, as is a scene in which two hostages forget where they are, and burst out laughing while glued to a comedy show on television, even as their kidnapper watches them bewildered.

To give texture to his tale, Dhulia hires good actors in colorful parts. Ravi Kissen is pretty solid as the hit-man who dresses up as a woman and pretends to be crazy, just so he can escape getting arrested. In one instance he tells a corrupt neta: “Aap humein support kijiye, hum vispot karenge.” Gulshan Grover particularly shines in the role of a contemptuous Marwari millionaire, and you laugh when a Chambal dacoit on the verge of surrender, puts in a demand for Bipasha Basu to dance for him in the ravines.

What’s disappointing then is that Bullett Raja isn’t consistently engaging. Aside from the rather choppy editing, there are also random scenes strewn about carelessly. Sonakshi Sinha plays an aspiring actress who comes in contact with Raja and Rudra. We’re never sure why this sweet middle-class Bengali girl insists she wants to tag along with two gangsters for the ride. She falls all-too-easily in love with Raja, even though they appear as far removed as chalk and cheese. The flabby, unnecessary portions in this film include the hiatus these three take to Mumbai, a plot diversion that serves no purpose other than to fit in a silly nightclub number. Even the dacoit-capture scene in the Chambal valley comes off as indulgent, given that it’s included only to establish Vidyut Jamwal’s character as a daring cop.

And therein lies Bullett Raja’s big flaw. Working on a larger scale than he’s usually handled, Dhulia inevitably falls into the trap of glorifying his star. The narrative bloats to include scenes of Raja’s herogiri and this quickly becomes a drag. The director’s knack for telling intriguing, wacky stories gets sidelined by the pressure on him to present Saif Ali Khan as the ultimate symbol of machismo.

Of the principal cast, Jimmy Shergill is nicely restrained as the quick-thinking Rudra, whose chemistry with Raja is compelling. Sonakshi Sinha comes off as a third wheel in this friendship, stuck with a middling role. Saif Ali Khan is very good as the wise-ass, audacious Raja, going full-throttle in the comic interludes, the high-adrenaline chase sequences, and even the loutish dancing in an item song with Mahie Gill. The pity here is that despite dominating the screen throughout, his character never feels entirely well-rounded, and as a result his performance never hits the high notes he achieved with Langda Tyagi in Omkara.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Bullett Raja. With a tighter script and an uncompromising vision, he might’ve knocked this one right out of the park. At the moment though, it’s an easy but forgettable watch.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

6 Responses to “Guns & poses”

  1. Sumit says:

    First of all there is no need of Bengali girl Sonakshi in this movie and the so called tours of Kolkata and Mumbai.

    Secondly, When Raghuvendra(Ravi Kisan) was in the getup of “Radha” he dont have mustache and immediately after the contract given by Bajaj (Gulshan Kapoor) he is seen with a big mustache which I think need a month or more to grow.

    Otherwise it is so-so, one time watch…..and your rating is hats off sir,100% accurate.

  2. Yogendra says:

    completely agreed

  3. Manohara says:

    Why Hindi movie Directors crumble when working with stars……

    A long time after went to watch Hindi movie called “Bullet Raja”. That too from Tigmanshu Dhulia…The director who has created a space for himself through movies like “Paan Singh Tomar”, Saheb Biwi and Gangster series. The hope for movie was high as it was sent in UP heart land, with some good actors and Tigmanshu’s past history with good movies. Did the movie live upto its expectation…..NO and why? That is what the title of this write up, which is “Why Hindi Movie Directors crumble when working with stars”.

    This is always been a mystery for me that the good Hindi movie directors fail miserably when working with stars; this is truly not the case with directors in other language. Just because you have a star you don’t need to be in pressure to deliver to his Image. I see a star pressure on Dhulia which can be clearly seen in “Bullet Raja”. Unnecessary songs, a love story with no connection, a Nami heroine just because you have a star as hero, story made to glorify the hero and in process screwing the entire movie. I see the supporting cast delivering much better than the main cast of the movie. What Hindi film stars have been missing is the calibre of acting which some of their support artists do so gracefully to a level much higher than the stars themselves. And directors of new genre like Dhulia should understand this.

    This movie with likes of Manoj Bajapai or Irfaan Khan or even Jimmi Shergill would have been much well developed and matured. But the product is out and with a star..may be that is how the cookie crumbles in Hindi movies and that is how a director crumbles when he works with a star.

  4. swapnil says:

    While watching i was searching for the story….unfortunately it never comes….disappointed by Dhulia’s attempt….songs are more disgusting than the story and wonders what sonakshi sinha doing in this film, just asking myself throughout the film ‘ why’….

  5. Sahil says:

    Perhaps this film deserved 3 stars instead of 2.5 but I leave that to Rajeev Masand’s expert deduction which I respect. I would however, like to disagree with a few critical observations made by Rajeev:

    “Sonakshi Sinha plays an aspiring actress who comes in contact with Raja and Rudra. We’re never sure why this sweet middle-class Bengali girl insists she wants to tag along with two gangsters for the ride.” – I see nothing wrong with this depiction. Women are supposed to be attracted to baddies in reel and real life. Especially baddies with a heart of gold. This portion of the plot looks convincing to me, not that it makes it morally right to throw in your lot with shady characters but come on, this one comes straight from the heart. Can’t find any fault with it really.

    “The flabby, unnecessary portions in this film include the hiatus these three take to Mumbai, a plot diversion that serves no purpose other than to fit in a silly nightclub number.” — Another story-telling liberty which I’m cool with.

    “Even the dacoit-capture scene in the Chambal valley comes off as indulgent, given that it’s included only to establish Vidyut Jamwal’s character as a daring cop.” – I’ve started liking Vidyut since Commando so I may be a bit biased but the stunts were a treat to the eyes.

    “The narrative bloats to include scenes of Raja’s herogiri and this quickly becomes a drag. ” — OK this is larger-than-life and about one superstar but so is Dabangg, Dabangg 2, etc. I think our criticism of a movie depends on how much we like/dislike the main characters. But yes, from an unbiased perspective, we saw over-glorification of one character over others in plot.

    Bullet Raja was a fairly entertaining movie but for the naked depiction of political violence and its justification in every scene. I would have wanted to see Vidyut’s good cop character play a more important role in setting right the baddie elements the same way he did in Commando.

  6. The review somehow contrasted the conclusion and stars given.
    But yeah looks like a 2 and a 1/2 star movie pretty much.

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