Film: Baadshaho; Director: Milan Luthria; Cast: Ajay Devgn, Ileana D’Cruz, Emraan Hashmi, Esha Gupta, Sanjay Mishra, Vidyut Jammwal
Baadshaho is an interesting enough heist film set against the backdrop of the Emergency. While questions can be raised about its historical accuracy, the undulating storyline does just that little bit to keep things lively. Though its plot makes it fairly watchable, barring certain bits of humour courtesy Sanjay Mishra, the acting on the part of the whole cast is too stylised to be taken seriously.
The film begins with the notorious Sanjay Gandhi making advances towards Rani Gitanjali (of Rajasthan), at a party hosted by the latter. She rebuffs him, leaving the man red-faced and swearing vengeance. Cut to two years later, and all the power rests with the Gandhi family, as the Emergency has just come into effect. With no real entitlements left, the Rani is in a precarious position to safeguard her last remaining gold reserves. Sanjay, still bent on teaching the queen a lesson, decides to bring the full force of the Emergency down on her. The army is sent to the palace to retrieve the gold, with clear instructions to deliver the bounty to the Prime Minister’s son.
Gitanjali is falsely arrested under the new, authoritarian regime. She turns to her bodyguard and confidante, Bhawani, to hatch a plot to get the gold before it reaches the seat of power.
While there are many things that can be criticised about Baadshaho—the army’s actual extent of involvement during the Emergency, a heavily fortified truck with little or no backup in the form of a convoy, the sometimes-pasty dialogues spewing from the main characters’ mouths—it is the story that doesn’t do too badly. It is a heist thriller, after all. And it must be judged as such. Even though it does borrow some tried and tested formulae from past creations, this gives the film a certain level of watchability.
Sanjay Mishra is a fine actor; this may not be the man’s best role to date, but his comic timing doesn’t seem to have lost a beat. Even when it comes to the most puerile of jokes, his delivery of them is just superb. As for the rest of the cast, their acting chops range from slightly above average, at best, to overdone (in typical filmy style), at worst.
The film may be pretty good in the technical aspects, but it is truly disappointing when the commercial trumps the creative in the overall scheme of things. The back-stabbing and betrayal are high points of Luthria’s effort, with some parts coming as absolute shocks to an unsuspecting audience. But Baadshaho digs itself deep into familiar Bollywood terrain when the predictable dialogues and half-baked strategy sequences take over.
There is one particularly bad scene in which Army Officer Seher and his colleague are planning the supposedly covert operation (of moving the gold by truck to Delhi) right outside the Rani’s palace – for all, including those who wish to thwart the plan, to see. Just like Milan Luthria’s Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, this is a passable film. It could have been so much better had a bit more thought gone into the smaller things.