In case I get a spelling wrong, that’s because my ears are still ringing with all the seetis and taalis at Rowdy Rathore. The film’s an unabashed, gunpowder-hot, sambar-spiced star-vehicle which runs along energetically most of the time because its star – Akshay Kumar, essaying a double role as Rathore and Shiva – is worth it, something that’s emphasized often. At one point, a girl asks Shiva, pursuing pretty Paaro (Sinha) from Patna, ‘Na tum mein Hrithik ke looks hain, na Shah Rukh ka charm, na Aamir ki cuteness, na Salman ki body – what’s so cool about you?’ Akshay drawls back, “Lagta hai Khiladi ko bhool gayi aap.” Cue for crowd – erupt in rapture.
A lull in its second half aside, Rowdy’s mostly quick-stepping, moving from Mumbai’s malls to medieval Bihar where Baapji (Nasser) and his hamming henchmen terrorise Devgarh’s townsfolk through pillage, beatings and rape. Till cop Vikram Rathore (Kumar) arrives on the Shramjeevi Express, assaulting local yokels with handy gannas, infusing new meaning to ‘sugar-cane’. With terrific overhead shots capturing his exploits, the fearless Rathore even bumps off Baapji’s vicious beta Munna, so Baapji won’t rest till Vikram is killed.
Despite an injury to his brain (which the doctor says causes ‘hammo-rage’), Vikram and his little daughter Chinki reach Mumbai. Here, their paths cross with Shiva who adopts Chinki when Vikram’s felled. And goes to Devgarh where he tells Baapji, ‘A village can have only one Rowdy.’ It’s time Baapji – or ‘lemon-chus’, as Rowdy addresses him – shoved off.
This involves toe-curling violence though. A guy gets stabbed in the mouth, a head’s crushed on a rock, swords slash through navels. Against the gore, Shiva’s dancing with Paaro provides breezy relief but the music itself is unmemorable. In a Prabhudheva picture, expectedly the dances are eye-catching, some moves like sweet caresses, some sexy little bites. Sonakshi glows as Paaro, a spunky Indian beauty showing flashes of her star-father’s confidence when she snarls at the villains, ‘O saand ke bhes mein kukur.” This Patna girl’s stepped out in style with Rowdy. But the same can’t be said for those playing Devgarh’s dread-struck. Apart from Yashpal Sharma (sincere as a junior cop), the rest are unconvincing, as is the villainous set-up itself, located somewhere oddly between feudal Bihar, accented Andhra and Sholay’s bandit lair.
Indeed, Rowdy Rathore pays homage to iconic filmi characters – identical heroes, golden-hearted chors, brave Men in Brown beating evil people to pulp. However, it pays most homage to its own star, Akshay Kumar, who pulls off Shiva with style but Vikram less so, possibly because all that violence overwhelms acting itself. Not that the crowd seemed to mind. As Shiva exhorts a woman raped by Baapji’s son to beat him up, the girl next to me cried, “Why doesn’t she?” Her neighbour replied, “She will.” And she did – much to the crowd’s Rowdy delight.
Low-life thief Shiva and top-cop Vikram Rathore are identical. Vikram’s killed by foes but his daughter thinks Shiva’s her dad – can this Rowdy win respect?
Fans will love Akshay’s mooch-twirling masala-act but be ready for hardcore action too – some pretty gruesome.