Aan: Men At Work

Last Updated: Sat, Jun 05, 2004 05:47 hrs

Starring Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty, Shatrughan Sinha, Paresh Rawal, Raveena Tandon, Lara Dutta, Irfaan Khan, Rahul Dev, Jackie Shroff...!

Directed by Madhur Bhandarkar

Actually, there are many men at work — both on and off screen – in Aan: Men At Work. While the cop-heroes sweat it out in their humid halos, the men behind the scenes also make their presence felt in rapidfire motions in this emotionless picture-show. No sobbing Matajis (thank God!) but loads of slithering and sliding Mata Haris.

And now, the Men At Work. There’s of course director Madhur Bhandarkar, in his first foray into frenzied action. Big guns with bigger nozzles attached to them – of both the human and the mechanical mind–strut around with such exaggerated machismo, it becomes hard to tell the bad and good guys apart.

Bhandarkar treats his heroes and villains (all festooned to the plot with formulistic splendour) like characters in an extended video game for juvenile grownups. That’s where another one of those ‘Men At Work’ shows up.

Action director Abbas Ali Moghul holds the ricochetting reins of a major part of the narrative. Bang bang, crunch crunch, kill kill maim maim! Other films have kissie-kissie item songs, this has hordes of kill-me-kill-me ‘item stunts’. Suniel Shetty and Akshay Kumar’s introductory sequences (running, nay scampering, into a good 10-15 minutes running-time each) are like two autonomous sub-plots in the main event.

The main event, needless to say, is a ‘maim’ event. The fights between the band of khaki-clad super-cops (Akshay, Suniel, Paresh, Sinha, et al) and the gang of Khadi and Tuxedo-clad villains (Mohan Joshi, Milind Gunaji, Irfaan, Rahul Dev, etc etc) are so elaborate, you begin to wonder which came first: the police force, its brutality or films about the brutality of the police force.

Don’t believe me. Believe your ears. Close your eyes and listen to the over-saturated sounds of this tangy tale of fly-by-night heroics. The onomatopoeic soundtrack is overpowered by gun shots and wailing sirens...some of the latter, in curvaceous human firm crooning ‘Nasha nasha’ invitingly in crowded bars.

The dance items (there’re so many of them you finally stop counting) are like the frenzied copulation of virtual realists in an orgy of drugged ecstacy. Foamy bottles open with lathery suggestiveness as women of every colour complexion and, er, size slither and slurp into the camera in intimate postures.

Really, if this is how underworld dons and their minions live who wants to be an honest cop with nothing more to your advantage than your simmering morality?!

Foreplay is the key to producer Feroz Nadiadwala’s filmmaking. He’s clearly the third vital Man At Work in this tale of bristling busybodies. He swamps the screen with sleek guns and sexy gals. Akshay Kumar is at the helm of the glam-fest masquerading as a film about the ‘real’ life of dedicated cops.

Some of the shootouts, for example Rahul Dev’s ‘encounter’ killing by cop Akshay Kumar (done in stark brutal black-and-white), or Suniel Shetty’s slaying in the hand of a corrupt colleague (Ajinkya Deo) as his wife(Preeti Jhangiani, in a blink-and-miss role) does pooja at home, are admittedly high-octane stuff, designed to get the audiences collective adrenaline rocking and rolling.

Apart from the stunt director, credit must go to cinematographer Madhu Rao who brings in a semblance of sensibility, otherwise lacking in the narrative. Unlike, say Khakee the individual itemized sequences fail to hold together in a cohesive whole. The drama is more dripping than gripping, with subtexts unabashedly borrowed from earlier cops films slapped on in a demonstration of eclectic machismo.

At one point the dialogue writer even makes a humorous reference to Ab Tak Chappan in reference Suniel Shetty’s character designed on Mumbai’s super-cop the encounter-specialist Nayak. Humour is welcome in a film that often takes itself dead seriously. The corpses easily outnumber the cops. And the casualties include the two characters played by Vijay Raaz and Rajpal Yadav who hold a whole conversation comparing women with alcohol.

The ladies are as eminently disposable as liquor bottles. Besides the item bombs who cavort in a wall-to-wall carpret, the main female leads Raveena Tandon and Lara Dutta get abysmal footage.

Lara Dutta’s song breaks with Akshay Kumar are no more than extensions of his macho aspirations. Raveena as the villainous tycoon Jackie Shroff’s mistress echoes Manisha Koirala’s character in Parto Ghosh’s Yugpurush. Raveena, poor thing, struggles to lend colour to a grossly under-sketched character.

The film belongs to the men, with Akshay Kumar leading the pungent pack. He’s restrained sombre and effective. Suniel Shetty has a few key dramatic and action scenes that he bites into with famished ferocity. Rawal‘s cop act is an alibi for his early death in the plot. Since the film is already guilty of so many excesses, Rawal’s ‘joke’ on dirty graffiti about a distressed chawlwalla could have been sleazily avoided.

Among the villainous performers Irfaan Khan makes the best impact. His self-consciously crowd-pleasing sequence with a corrupt judge in the latter’s chamber smacks of an arrogant disregard for the government machinery that anti-establishment films are always guilty of.

Aan is one of those high-octane low-protein actioners that make a frontal impact without leaving any lasting impression. It wouldn’t be wrong to say what an American critic said about Mehboob Khan’s film of the same title. It just goes Aan and Aan.

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