Rating: 3.5/5 Stars (Three and half stars)
Star cast: Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Irrfan Khan
Director: Ali Abbas Zafar
What’s Good: A tryst at attempting an all encompassing commercial film that outstrips the ranks set by an array of South remakes in recent times that commercial cinema in Bollywood has become synonymous with.
What’s Bad: The contrived love triangle which is unconvincing from the onstart. The film is riddled with ample typical cliches peculiar to 70s’ films.
Watch or Not?: Ali Abbas Zafar’s film Gunday couldn’t even near the tautness promised in the film’s crisply made trailer. Despite Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor’s camaraderie living up to the expected measure of outstanding and Priyanka looking every bit heavenly as Nandita, the screenplay is plagued with predictability. Gunday is not a bad film but falls miles short of what was expected of it. It was a dampener as I went in looking for passion and exhilarating enjoyment but rather was meted out with a film that was too superficial to engage audiences in a vehement narrative. It is Irrfan Khan’s hypnotic cameo which works off the sole whiff for magic for this clumsy film that indulges in superfluities more than substance. A sexy show gone dull but nevertheless deserves to be watched for the oomph show and bombastic dialogues that have gone missing from films now-a-days.
It is a legendary story of two young lads who begin by supplying illegal weapons to the Bangladesh army post 1973 war. From there circumstances force the two young lads to flee to Kolkata, then Calcutta. Bikram and Bala get pushed into becoming the coal mafias after thriving through their childhood as petty coal thieves.
It was all well in their life till they both lose their hearts to Nandita, a gorgeous cabaret dancer. With newly deployed ACP Satyendra looking for mistakes to arrest them, the bone of contention divides the duo Bikram and Bala which leads to their inevitable downfall.
Filmmaker Ali Abbas Zafar is clearly cinema crazy but the amateur guy with the experience of barely two films cannot do justice to magnanimity of the tapestry his innovatively filmy mind had weaved. The story is traced back to 70s’ Calcutta when refugees from other side of the border were coming in chunks to India. Bikram and Bala meet in one of such abandoned refugee camps in Bangladesh. Over an effective span of time, the journey from being small time thieves to coal mafias flourishing on loot and kill is captured wonderfully. The hint of child sexual abuse in the backstory is a bold move.
I think for large part the discrepancies and loopholes can be excused simply because Zafar toils painstakingly hard to pay a glorifying tribute to Salim-Javed’s style of cinema with brooding angry young men and thumping one liners. Luckily the script affects me favorably instead of leaving behind the taste of souring milk ala lines like ‘doodh mein nimbu jisne nichora paneer uski’. Zafar adapts a familiar style of narrating a story by and large adapted from the 70s cinematic style replete with punch lines and clap traps.
Digging through the clever quips, the film has traces of innate drama which loses itself in its risible portions and lack of impactful drama. The film dodges its powerful moments by falling prey to its flimsy stretches. Decades of friendship jeopardized by the men obsessing over a common woman is convoluted to say the least. With no regard to the unsaid bro code, there is a definite lack of conviction in how the conflict has been infused in the plot.
Commendably, it is the scheming cop, witnessing the gradual destruction of the two men, that stands out as the primary fun factor of this story which deliberately reduces itself to mundane. It is obviously the most entertaining bit but I earnestly wish Zafar had spent more time in describing the triumphs and laurels of Bikram-Bala rather than wasting screentime in focusing on their romance with Nandita. The story makes the strategic mistake of shifting attention to the needless hence trapping itself in the warped ways predictability and stereotypes. The script was laden with smashing caliber but the scriptwriter lost plot in its due course unfortunately.
Ranveer Singh is effortlessly terrific as Bikram. The actor’s impulsive vein comes handy in this role especially because he is so sexy with such ease that it will be hard to take your eyes off him.
Arjun Kapoor’s relative inexperience however plays him down a little when pitted opposite Ranveer. He is intense, brimming with emotions but the rendering is not done to rightly tinted perfection.
Priyanka Chopra has way more flair when we saw her in Barfi but the actress is not picking well rooted roles anymore. It is not her story clearly and she fails to rise up beyond being the bone of contention between Bikram and Bala.
Irrfan Khan is nuanced as the shrewd cop and his charming subtlety is hands down, the most irresistible thing about the film. He gives you the required giddiness with a well blended smoothness.
Direction, Editing and Screenplay
Ali Abbas Zafar does a masterstroke with this film. And Zafar’s execution is what makes the fast depleting story hold its ground. The trajectories he builds are shaky but his screenplay is engrossing enough to not let you slip even in the slack moments.
From the scene in Bangladesh where the young Bala shoots an army officer to save Bikram, to the one post interval where the duo engage in a violent fist fighting duel is a diametric transformation and Zafar captures it with immense beauty and poise. There is grace in the way the director tackles the semi warped story and hence it will be hard to not lose heart to the film for that alone.
The director must have loved Baywatch too much in his young days; I almost felt like a Chandler from FRIENDS ogling at soot colored smooth bodied Ranveer and Arjun. The titillating male body show is catchy to fall back on when the story goes lame.
The Last Word
I won’t question the novelty of the attempt because the film was clearly an ode to an extremely inspiring era of crackling work in cinema. But Ali Abbas Zafar doesn’t match up to the tall promises of giving us a wholesome lip smackingly satisfying commercial film that is not sloppily written. Gunday gets hammy on multiple occasions and in over 2 and half hours of its run time, it fails to swell to the height that was expected of it. It is only Ranveer-Arjun’s easy chemistry, a spirited effort of not resorting to remakes and Irrfan Khan’s subtle rendering of the astute cop that works for me here. Gunday rocks for not resorting commercial crassy mores. It is no Sholay but it is just as over-the-top as any 70s’ caper. Now it is up to you to classify it as good or bad. For me the film is a 3.5/5 for its fervor for all it accomplishes and a hope that it will open up avenues for more of such sprightly writings.