Sunday, December 15, 2019
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Review: Gunday needs some polishing

Film: Gunday, 153 minutes.

Cast: Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and Irrfan Khan

Remember the ’90s hit TV series Baywatch, in which lifeguards running on a beach with gleaming bodies were captured to perfection? It was a celebration of sculpted torsos and was mockingly called ‘Babewatch’, or ‘Boywatch’ (depending on which side you leaned towards). Saving lives at sea was almost an afterthought.

Gunday, led by Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor, is Bollywood’s scruffier version of Baywatch. And boy, can Bikram and Bala run. Instead of pristine sandy beaches shown in the American show, the Gunday men are soot-kissed and are seen dodging bullets in Kolkata’s coal mines.

Set in the 1970s, these two rebels have been given a raw deal in life. Like many children born during the India-Bangladesh crisis, they became instant refugees and society rejects. So what do they do next? They become petty coal thieves and amass a vast business empire by killing and looting.

We are constantly reminded that they are outlaws who are as thick as thieves. Nobody can come between them, that is — until their eyes latch on to bodacious cabaret dancer Nandita (Priyanka Chopra). So far, so good. But what’s disappointing is that director Ali Abbas Zafar borrows that time-worn cliche and forgets to add his own spin to it. Don’t be surprised if you are left asking: Is there a famine of beautiful girls in Kolkata? The two could get any girl under the sun but they behave like kids fighting over a new toy. The reason for their obsession — which threatens to break their childhood bond — lacks conviction. The dialogue spoken by a breathless Bikram as he courts Nandita: “It’s the first time that my calloused, tainted hands are touching an innocent girl,” is unintentionally hilarious. Perhaps that can be forgiven as Gunday is an ode to bombastic 1970s cinema that rides on the steam of heroic men who can deliver punchy one-liners.

Of the two boys, it’s Singh who shines like a diamond. His act is comparatively polished, while Kapoor comes across as a petulant boy who needs some sense to be shaken into him. Chopra can work a sari like nobody else and tries to pump some pizzazz into a predictable role. Be sure to watch out for Irrfan Khan as a conniving, ruthless cop. He belongs to the subtle school of acting and we wish that our boys (who refuse to grow up into men) had taken a few pointers from him.

If you dig those loud ’70s capers, Gunday is right up your street.