To water: Akshay Kumar, Kriti Sanon, Jacqueline Fernandez, Arshad Warsi, and Pankaj Tripathi
Director: Farhad Samji
Rating: One and a half stars (out of 5)
Basic cinematic principles are mercilessly attacked Bachchan Paandey. It’s a scattershot action comedy that revolves around a psychopathic gangster in the badlands of northern India – Bollywood’s obsession with India’s largest state and its storied state of lawlessness is far from fizzled – and a budding filmmaker who decides to create a biopic about the Feared to try killers at great risk to life and limb.
Bachchan Paandey is about making a film, but it offers a two and a half hour demo of how not to make a film. There’s a movie within a movie and it’s hard to decide which one is worse. Everything out here, including the chaos the plot unleashes, is heightened caricature.
This marketed version of the 2014 Tamil hit Jigarthanda is crafted by Farhad Samji, whose directorial credits include Housefull 4, and produced by Sajid Nadiadwala, also credited as a contributor to the story.
The only link to it Bachchan Paandey In terms of production staff, Jigarthanda has cinematographer Gavemic U. Ary. Jigarthanda was in the city of Madurai, Bachchan Paandey takes place in a semi-urban outpost. Therefore, the two films are also visually completely dissimilar. The cinematographer is just as good at capturing open, dusty expanses as smoky, cramped interiors, but it’s all in the service of a film that’s just dabbing in big strokes on a rough-hewn screen.
Bachchan Paandey rides squarely on the starry, over-the-top presence of Akshay Kumar. He plays a cold-blooded criminal with a heartbreaking backstory about as compelling as a Saharan snowstorm. He is the undisputed godfather of Baghwa and thrives on the fear his name inspires. When a journalist profiles him and uses a cartoon line drawing of the criminal’s face to punctuate the story, the robber takes it to heart and burns the perpetrator alive.
The horrors Bachchhan wreaks on people who get in his way is staged as a farce spectacle designed to make violence look cool. The man’s bloodthirsty toxicity evokes more disgust and disgust than real fear. These scenes have the undeniable potential to enthrall sections of the audience.
Worryingly, we live in times when the comic celebration of violence such as we witness in Bachchhan Paandey seems far less problematic than the kind of hate, bigotry and hysteria that some contemporary Bollywood films brazenly foment .
Bachchan Paandey is supposed to be a masala entertainer and is therefore, one could argue, not to be taken seriously. The characters should just play for a laugh. But what do you think of a film that is a comedy in which even Arshad Warsi struggles to be funny?
In Jigarthanda, the villain (played by Bobby Simha) was just that. He was projected as “the greatest villain”, and no nobility was attempted to be imposed on him. in the Bachchan Paandeyturns the character into a downright hero to his men because, as one of his lackeys says late in the film, he understands that muya (Value of pyaar (Love), a nod to his tragic love story with Jacqueline Fernandez in an unforgettable special appearance.
The Jigarthanda protagonist is an aspiring male filmmaker who sets out to make a film about a gangster after being publicly humiliated by an industry veteran. Here the character is female and the role is filled by Kriti Sanon who, despite the charm and energy she exudes, struggles to paint a convincing portrait of a woman whose aging father has spent his entire life as a spot boy and eggs his daughter should realize her dream.
Sanon plays Myra Devekar, a helper who is insulted by the director when she goes above and beyond her limits on a film’s set. She convinces the producer (Ashwin Mushran) to give her the opportunity to prove herself independently. A bus ride later, the lady is in the provinces, where Bachchhan Paandey’s injunction is running free because neither the police nor his criminal rivals can measure up to him.
Myra teams up with another fighter, Vishu (Arshad Warsi), the son of an actor who tried and failed in the Mumbai film industry. Myra promises him a key role in his film and the actor-wannabe, despite his initial reservations about even going close Bachchan Paandey, agrees to help her in her quest, no matter how dangerous it is. Thus begins an adventure that confirms Vishu’s worst fears. The gangster is every inch the man he’s meant to be. His heart is as stony as his left prosthetic eye.
In this bewildering melee of a film, a cast of superb actors is made short shrift of. Sanjay Mishra is also one Bachchan Paandey Familiar/informant Bufferiya, so named because of his pronounced stutter. He barely gets the word in Edgewise. Pankaj Tripathi is a slave-riding, garrulous acting coach in Bhavesh Bhoplo. Mohan Agashe plays the title character’s mentor and Seema Biswas appears in a scene and a half as the mother of Bachchhan Paandey, who hasn’t spoken a word since her son went on a murder spree.
Mishra and Tripathi, actors with phenomenally funny timing, are in the film to make us laugh. Tripathi delivers a few funny moments, but we can’t help but cringe at what buffoons they’ve been transformed into. The other two, veterans of some good films, are reduced to glorified extras.
Prate Babbar plays a gang member named Virgin because he has yet to open his account as a killer. He gets quite a long rope and a character who has something to add to the story. The two men who are always by Bachchhan Paandey’s side – Pendulum and Kandi – are played by Abhimanyu Singh and Saharsh Kumar Shukla. The former has a love story with a happy ending, the latter has a porn addiction.
But this is the kind of film where no one but the lead actor and, to a much lesser extent, the likable newcomer who wants to tell a gangster tale is allowed to step out into the open and secure their place in the sun.
Bachchan Paandey is a massive and messy pot boiler that withers under its own weight.