Ok so no one's asking if you're going to watch the movie. Everyone's asking if you've gone to see Salman Khan. And there's an abundance of Salman Khan in the film complete with the scowl and the bare chest. In fact, there's too much of him.
The intro scene has him swinging his famous turquoise bracelet, completely suspending the difference between the character and the actor.
To understand the film (based on Telugu hit Stalin), it's important to view Salman Khan’s present situation. Accused of several crimes and having been in prison, his image is that of a volatile person, but with a heart of gold, reinforced with his Being Human initiative. His fans see only the Being Human side; his detractors see him only as a glorified offender.
And truly Salman's Jai is a bit of both. An ex army-man, he now bashes up baddies as a day job. When he saves people, he tells them to carry forward the goodness and help three other people. Upon calculating how that goodness would multiply, he feels if everyone follows his thought, multitudes of people could benefit.
But in relaying this message, the film ODs on emotional manipulation. So you have a girl's drink getting spiked and about to be molested; the very second scene has another girl kidnapped; another scene has a doctor harass a female patient. Yet another scene has a beggar child being shoved on the ground and the most trying of them all – a handicapped person who cannot write her exam paper (her brother could not reach on time), desperately trying to write with a pen in her mouth, and finally taking a drastic step. Sheesh! You'd think the college would cut a handicapped person some slack!
The film is comfortable selling the idea of women in trouble and looking at Jai for help (and he most certainly obliges), rather than standing up for themselves. And when he does save the day, drums materialize out of nowhere for a grand spectacle of a song with 100 plus backup dancers. The mother is happy, the sister is proud, the girlfriend is smitten, and the others are all grateful to have this superhero in their lives.
So Khan roars and scowls, moving in slow-mo, and going on a Kill Bill- style rampage in superhuman speed. Our eyes adjust to this sudden variation of speeds. Then there's that scene of one of the baddies peeing in his pants (because you know, that's so original).
There's no count of the people Jai violently murders (even if they're bad guys. He makes an (unidentifiable) animalistic noise when he's working the punches. That someone calls him a jaanwar in the film makes it unintentionally comical. But seriously, why glorify this kind of uncontrolled anger and violent streak?
Sadly the villain (Danny Denzongpa) is given no nuance or personality. He's the kind of villain, who despite being a minister, brags about how he cut off a journalist's hand or chopped off the tongue of a judge. What's the fun of a hero winning, if the villain is so predictable?
Debutante Daisy Shah, formerly a dancer, gets a wonderful intro focusing on her strong point. She's vivacious, but the role is a boring one.
More outrageous is the character of a kid whose unacceptable behavior including commenting on women's innerwear is passed off as being harmlessly bratty.
In this cacophony, the songs are a welcome relief. So is the sharp cinematography, styling, and performances by peripheral characters.
The dialogue is surprisingly subdued with no smart-alecky line for Salman’s character. It's more the predictable "Aam aadmi sota hua sher hai" variety. What's interesting is the casual insinuation of English, as a character points out that the new CM has a "positive vibe".
As for Salman, he pretty much holds this fragmented film together. He still has it, in the sense that he's pretty convincing when beating scores of baddies together, and the jeans still make him look good. His face looks a bit weathered and he does have that receding hairline (especially bothersome as he plays young characters), but that doesn't take away from his tremendous screen presence.
Sadly, the film itself is a downer. Director Sohail Khan gives us a film that ironically tries putting a positive message in a violent film. And sadly there is no entertainment value either in the emotions or the action.
The film appears to be a massive PR fillip for Salman—working on his image of a do-gooder with a volatile temper. The film and his image feed off each other. There's also some token nationalism forced in for good measure. You'll get a lot of Salman Khan here, but an entertaining movie, you will not.
Rating: Two stars