Film Review: Gunday
Star Cast: Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Irrfan, Saurabh Shukla, Pankaj Tripathi, Manu Rishi;
Director : Ali Abbas Zafar
Gunday is as generic as its name suggests: even that old phrase luchche-lafangey had more character. In the name of plot, we get a mash-up of many popular blockbusters, several of them belonging to Yashraj, the producers of this one. In the name of acting, we get pumped up beefcake and one number plumped-lip eye candy. There are a few solid supporting acts, and they are the ones that keep you watching, but they get buried in the sludge. What you get is what you’ve been getting. Over and over again.
The setting is the early '70s and Calcutta, where fierce youngsters Bikram and Bala fetch up as refugees from across the newly-formed Bangladesh border. But any hope of the film using this little original plot-point as a jump-start into something new is dashed when we are presented with the creakiest trope in Bollywood masala films: small legs pumping (belonging to the little fellows), turning into long legs running (belonging to the boys-who-have-turned-into-men).
It’s almost as if the story got cobbled between three prescribed familiar threads: koyle ki khadaan, hero ki dukaan, gori ka makaan. Go ahead, spot the bits from Sholay, Zanjeer, Kala Patthar, Deewaar, and even Don (the remake), and a few more I didn’t. And non-stop background music which nearly rivals that of Ram Gopal Varma’s flicks in its relentlessness: I don’t think there’s one significant quiet spot in this film.
And then it’s open season on tried-and-tested set-pieces. Bikram (Singh) and Bala’s (Kapoor) friendship, forged in blood, will be tested as soon as the pretty Nandita (Chopra) hoves into view. We know it much before the script, because it gives us the crack in the bachpan-ke-dost much after we’ve seen it coming. Before the girl comes in between them, the two have already begun ruling Calcutta in their merry outlaw fashion: they are into the kalabazaari of coal, and other scarce things.
As soon as ACP Satya (Irrfan) draws a bead on them, exactly in the way filmi cops did back in the day — striding into the villain’s den, doing dialogue-baazi, and letting the bad guys go about their business— we know how this one will pan out. For this, we have to wait till all the way to the end, when the police can show up, sirens blowing, just like they did in the '70s and the '80s.
The design is meticulous and everything looks as if it belongs to the period, but we are left waiting for something, anything new. Why do a '70s style film with actors whose body language belongs to the here and now? Both Singh, who is a little more effective than his jodi-daar, and Kapoor, tread the same path that Bachchan and co. did 40 years back, and get very little out of it for themselves. Chopra is given precisely one scene in which she takes the pants off the boys, and one little improbable twist, but leaves barely any impact.
The ones who do, exit too soon. Both Manu Rishi and Pankaj Tripathi, both of whom appear in the portion where the boys are young, are given just a few minutes. That leaves the space clear for Irrfan to chew the scenery, which he does with customary relish. He’s the only one who is aware that he is sending up a '70s-style Bollywood cop, and shows us he is having a blast, even if it is from the past.
The rest is strictly, and depressingly, by-the-numbers.