There's no impetus whatsoever to visit a theatre right now. Most of us already know this, which is why a Zee Plex viewing of Salman Khan's latest seems like the only choice. Yet, ten minutes into Radhe, you begin to regret the move. Everything looks too small and miniaturised. The sickly colour scheme floods the laptop screen. Bhai's entry shot, minus the hoots, is a glass-shattering mess.
Radhe, directed by Prabhudheva, is a remake of the 2017 South Korean drama The Outlaws. It was also rumoured that the film is a sequel to Wanted (2009), also directed by Prabhudheva, which Salman has denied. Still, ardent fans can draw the line.
Once again, he's a cop named Radhe in the underbelly of Mumbai. Once again, his higher-up is played by Govind Namdev. Unlike Prakash Raj's gangster in the first film, the enemy here is Rana (Randeep Hooda), a drug dealer ruining the city.
Any Prabhudheva movie is a challenge to rote plot summaries; even then, Radhe takes the cake. There’s no logic between, under, over or in the middle of scenes. The film is largely built around Rana’s mission to narcotize the youth, and Radhe’s efforts to stop him. In between, he slips away to romance a girl named Diya (Disha Patani), whose elder brother, played by Jackie Shroff, is his reporting officer.
55-year-old Salman doesn't act in his films anymore. He visits them. He breezes into big action sequences and struts right out, leaving behind a heap of bodies. He beats up goons in a high-rise, at a 90s-style dance club, and inside a toilet. The villains get generic names like Dalroo Dada and Mansoor from Malaysia.
There's an infusion of Korean-style ultraviolence in some parts, but the action is mostly Bhai-efied. Randeep - in a man bun, black shades and jacket - proves no match. I cracked up when Rana, before a dust-up with Radhe, does a quick double take to the side, as though wondering if he's even got a chance. "I love it," he keeps saying in the film. He means his paycheck.
Jackie Shroff, too, will do anything for an honest day's pay, even if that means swapping clothes with Disha in a song. "I'm too dangerous," he warns Radhe when they first meet, wagging two fingers. No Salman performance is complete without the hat-tips, which duly arrive.
Diya drops off Radhe outside Galaxy apartments; elsewhere, he gives chase on a Being Human electric bike. All this is harmless fun - then again, you miss watching it with a crowd.
The drug angle isn’t worth dwelling upon, except to say it makes Rocky Handsome look like The Wire. Radhe inevitably compares his cleanup drive to 'Swachh Bharat', and enlists young kids in an anti-drug campaign. We know that one of these boys, who appears earlier in the film, will meet a rough fate.
Salman, to his credit, avoids a long 'drugs are bad' speech (one can only dread what Akshay Kumar would do with a film like this). Instead, he elects to lecture the only female officer in the story, bizarrely adapting his own line from an old Mountain Dew commercial. "Darr ke agey zindagi hai," she chides him, as Disha Patani beckons off-screen.
At the police station, one of Rana's men is shown footage from an earlier fight. "Ek dum video-game jaisa! (Like a video-game!)" the man grins.
Even by the childish standards of Prabhudheva's style - road chases, a car springing up to catch a fleeing chopper - this is insanely offensive. Not only does the director need to watch better films, he needs to play better games.
Cast: Salman Khan, Disha Patani, Jackie Shroff, Randeep Hooda
Streaming on: ZEE PLEX
(First appeared in Cinema Express)