Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bullett Raja Movie Review : Trying too hard to be cool

Post Paan Singh Tomar, Tigmanshu Dhulia has been on every movie buff's 'director-to-watch-out-for' list, even when Haasil remains his best directed film for me. Earlier this year, he gave us the delectable Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns which quite did not get the universal acclaim it aimed to fetch post PST. And now comes Bullett Raja with Saif Ali Khan, Sonakshi Sinha and Jimmy Sheirgill amongst a host of supporting actors. Despite Saif having successfully pulled off a similar character before and it being set in Dhulia-world, this one smelt different, and not the right kind of different. Yes, from the first trailer itself. The songs did not work much as the promos hit the tv screens and Bullett Raja could create meager anticipation in the audience, largely buttressing on cheesy, pseudo badass one-liners of the lead which made it reek of a campy Salman/Akshay south remake. But then, it turns out to be a not so terrible film, only that it is Dhulia's weakest.

Saif is Raja Mishra and Jimmy Sheirgill is Rudra Tripathi, who work as political commandos in the ganglands of Lucknow. Really? Well, I am from Kanpur, a city which is 2 hours away from Lucknow and have visited the place many a times all through my growing up years. Yet, I am yet to see street chases and fights of goons and firing of guns and pistols in front of naked eye by anyone there. In one sequence, Raja Mishra chases down India's No.1 business honcho (God knows what is he doing in Lucknow), murders him publicly and gets away with it also. A bit much? Now I agree films are supposed to be more fiction than fact, but they are not really helping the already shoddy image of the cities of the region in other parts of the country. This has been a problem with many Dhulia films. Crime, corruption and politics is preposterously exaggerated to the point that it becomes too much without much of a reason other than a simple leap of faith, something which a film like Gangs of Wasseypur took much care of by carefully layering it with historical instances and evident rationale. But then, I should not be too harsh on the film when it did not promise me reality? So I choose to ignore this one more time.

Bullet Raja has many tropes of a Dhulia film - convoluted plot with twists and turns, characters dying without much ado, filthy bureacracy, slimy politics loaded with ruthless murders, kidnaps and tons of badass banter with poses. But then its all very choppy and far apart, amidst which the film itself crumbles due to lack of cohesion. Dhulia's writing is razor-sharp, but only bits and spurts. You hear a crackling dialogue and then you hear 3-4 deadpan corny ones. There is too much of a half-assed attempt to create machismo which causes the screenplay to drag. What works here is once again Dhulia's wonderful capture of the flavor and texture of the region. Multiple references to the way people are due to either their cast, culture, language or position adds a lot of color to Bullet Raja. Dhulia's wacky antics are on display in many scenes and are totally lovable as well. One can see how much he loves the sound of the loading of a gun, or when he makes silent references to the baaghis of Chambal or the UP/Bihar immigrants in Bombay.

Overall, the film benefits from good casting and quirky dialogues to clean up its act quite a bit but a better second half would have done wonders for it. Like his earlier films, Dhulia along with his co-writer Amaresh Mishra should have paid more attention to the plot rather than garnishing of it. Music by Sajid-Wajid seems unnecessary in this film. Shooting on real locations has added value to the film but P.S. Vinod's Cinematography could have delivered much better. Bullett Raja has an A-list star and a generous budget (Fox Star Studios, Next Gen Films) and Dhulia is trying too hard to use all the money to make a popular mass entertainer while trying to not lose himself. Action and stunts, like all of his films, is fairly fresh and real here as well. 

Saif Ali Khan lands a delicious lead character who gets to be the boss throughout the film. He rides high on all the glory written for Raja Mishra in this story, borrowing his cheekiness from his earlier stint as Langda Tyagi in Omkara. Yet, the inconsistencies show up when he is using the characteristic lingo of his character and then next moment he juts into mouthing his dialogue in regular Hindi. Jimmy Sheirgill does well as his aide, pulling off a likable act in a character that was probably written for him. Sonakshi Sinha is wasted, once again, in an inconsequential part. Out of the supporting actors, it is Ravi Kissen and Chunky Pandey who shine through amongst a lot of Raj Babbar, Gulshan Grover, Vipin Sharma and Vidyut Jamwal. All of them benefit from well-etched character arcs for relatively smaller roles. 

Bullett Raja is engaging only in parts, fun for most of it but incoherent for all of it. It has opened well at the Box Office but I do not expect it to sustain, mostly it is not appealing much to the masses it is aimed towards. The pitch has not been very right and it almost looks like that its lead and director do not totally believe in the product either. It is far from terrible, but it is a terribly lost and I wish Dhulia had nothing to do with it. It is not a boring or shoddy film, but it is infuriating when a good director makes a bad film and hence I will use my knife on the rating!

Rating - 2/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

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