Saturday, November 24, 2012

Over the top and over the hill

(Published in The Friday Times, Lahore, on 23 November, 2012, retrieved from http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta3/tft/article.php?issue=20121123&page=19)


Picture Courtesy: The Friday Times


Cast: Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt, Sonakshi Sinha, Juhi Chawla, Vindoo Dara Singh, Mukul Dev, Tanuja
Director: Ashwni Dhir
Rating: 1 star
You know how, sometimes, you make yourself a steaming cup of tea, know you’ve strained it with just the right amount of adrak, sip it and taste salt instead of sugar? If you watch Son of Sardar, chances are that this exact expression will remain on your face for over two hours. Except for turbans that seem to be tied better than Akshay Kumar’s in Singh is Kingg, and the mandatory chant of Wahe Guru, there’s practically nothing remotely Sikh in this film. Yes, there’s a ton of Punjabi. And there’s an oft-repeated line that goes, “Sardar par joke mat karna, aur Sardar ko joker nahin samajhna”, and which strikes one as increasingly ironic as the film plays out.
Surely, it’s about time the censor board brought in a rule that said ageing actors should stop turning to computer graphics for validation? I mean, buy a jet. Get a botox job. Play your own son, like Rajesh Khanna did so successfully for so long. Get your son to play the young you, as Raj Kapoor did so successfully so often. Endorse everything you can lay your hands on, like Amitabh Bachchan did before KBC made him rich again. But, for the love of God, don’t give us Zorro-like shots of yourself standing on two galloping, computer-generated horses. And don’t make us listen to lines like “aag hai; seene mein lagado, cigarette main nahin.”
I was dreading Son of Sardar even as I took my place. A film about sardars, starring non-sardars, has to be worse than a film about sardars, starring sardars. Even as the horses canter away, the producers of the film – Ajay Devgn and the missus – thank Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar. Oh, dear. The good news is, I can’t see how Akshay Kumar is involved in the film, unless he came up with the plot. Because it’s the sort of movie only Akshay Kumar could pull off. And Ajay Devgn isn’t Akshay Kumar.
Before we can get over the horses, we are forced to look at Ajay Devgn standing on the hour hand of a computer-generated Big Ben. And before we can recover from that, a gang of hooligans confronts Jassi Randhawa (Ajay Devgn, who else) on a tacky-looking set that is possibly intended to pass for a London garage. His turban unfurls in a scene reminiscent of the disrobing-of-Draupadi episode from The Mahabharata that aired on Indian national television in the 1980s. Only, it puts Draupadi’s never-ending sari to shame by walloping the bad guys of its own accord. Thanks, but no thanks, Divine Intervention, CGI has got this.
Naturally, this calls for an item number where the choreography is primarily a simple movement of the wrist. You know, this trend of moving a progressively smaller body part in Bollywood item numbers could eventually lend itself to dissertations on the subject a few decades into the future. Right, so the film quickly runs through a series of exaggerated emotions, which seem quite at home in backdrops straight out of the Flash Gordon era. These are propped up by elaborate auditory puns.
So, this is a film about bullet, tractor, bandook, unrequited love, and forbidden bloodlust. The sardar whose son the film stars has only an off-screen role to play. All I gathered from the first twenty minutes is that there is a family feud on that warrants the sacrifice of ice cream, fizzy drinks, and nuptial bliss from three members of the Sandhu family, headed by Billoo (Sanjay Dutt). All I gathered from the next forty minutes is that the Sandhu family has some vague rule about treating mehmaanon like baghwaanon, which promptly expires when the guest steps over the threshold, back out into the street.
The rest of the story hinges on a horny jilted bride, who clearly never read Great Expectations, or a manual on menopause, and middle-aged men with a weakness for overweight girls and...yes, computer-generated horses. The Sufi song that now appears to be mandatory in all Bollywood produce is forgettable, but the sight of Sonakshi Sinha winking as she swirls her tongue at the camera will, unfortunately, haunt us for rather longer.
There’s a chance you will enjoy the film if the number that denotes your IQ is lower than the number that denotes your waist size, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

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