Movie: Bullett Raja
Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Jimmy Shergill, Sonakshi Sinha, Raj Babbar, Ravi Kishen, Vidyut Jamwal, Gulshan Grover, Chunky Pandey
From a man who knows a thing or two about Uttar Pradesh politics comes a pocket book update rapid Bollywood style — emphasise the castes of the players in question, exaggerate the jails from within which the mafia runs operations, feature a leader who builds statues, gloss over the encounters, and even throw in a line about the Maharashtrians who are settled peacefully in Benares. But just a line, mind it. Lest it all get too heavy. For Bullett Raja, the extra ‘t’ for emphasis, is a potboiler with little pretensions to realism but much too close a connection with Dhulia to entirely jettison it too.
This is not Dhulia trying to make commercial cinema “aesthically better”, as he has been emphasising. This is the celebrated director and now a fancied actor — since he made a mark in a film with an entirely new perspective on bloody, Hindi heartland violence and its politics and caste associations — completely surrendering himself to it.
It’s sad that he makes a mockery of all that he knows better here. It’s sad that for a completely unnecessary item number he casts a Mahie Gill who dared do a “bold role” and is paying the price for it. It’s sad that the song enters five minutes into the film. It’s sad that his heroes, a really ordinary Khan and a slightly better Shergill, are forced to emphasise their castes every other minute.
It’s sad that Lucknow’s really politically astute youths apparently know no better than to adopt the confused Raja (Khan) as their hero. And it’s sad that Jamwal has to make an entry as a Dabangg hero with an equally unbuttoned shirt and apparently as little an idea of what he is getting into to take Raja on.
And then there is Sonakshi Sinha, totally unnecessary but for a song and some smattering of Bengali to give it a variation. And she is an aspiring actress based in Mumbai who is somehow being taken advantage of in a Lucknow hotel by a businessman, who emphasises his Marwari lineage.
The film has been co-written by Amaresh Misra, who is associated with the Congress, and the film seems heavily pre-inclined to make a political statement — any which way it may tumble