There’s nothing likable or endearing about the narcissistic thug Bachchhan Paandey (Akshay Kumar) and the same could be said for the entire film of the same name that tries too hard to be quirky and quixotic.
The village gangster with a glass eye and compromised vision loves to kill and would merrily spray bullets or set a person on fire if anyone dared to laugh at him or caricature him. He’s disgustingly petty in his actions, but aspiring filmmaker Myra (Kriti Sanon) finds him an intriguing subject for her debut biopic. She’s hooked onto the idea that Paandey’s life warranties an epic movie and heads down to his territory Baghwa, a lawless land run by an unwashed Paandey and his gun-toting cronies.
The first half of ‘Bachchhan Paandey’ is a tedious crash course on how Paandey operates a typical banana republic where guns and goons rule. Just like his soulless glass eye, he’s morally bankrupt, and seasoned actor Kumar goes through the motions with alacrity. But here’s the deal: the movie seems to be suffering from a severe case of an identity crisis. Does it want to be an action-fuelled gangster flick or a whacky comedy?
In the hope of marrying the two, director Farhan Samji makes a colossal mess of it. He wants his film to be farcical yet has no clue how to go about it. Sanon has been given a role where she’s annoying and idealistic. She tries to inject charm and verve into her unconvincing character, but it’s not easy to like a woman who seems to be genuinely stupid.
Her attempts at stalking Paandey, such as planting spyware into his lackey’s phone Virgin (Prateik Babbar, who earned the name because he’s yet to kill anyone), are borderline ludicrous. Myra seems to be getting a free pass, while actor Arshad Warsi (who plays Vishu) tags along to support her and is wasted in a half-baked role.
Just like Myra, whose father is a hapless and powerless spot boy, Vishu’s father was a struggling side actor who hoped his son would get a better deal in cinema. But these characters don’t move you and they come across as tinny. Barring a few laughs, there’s very little that’s redeemable about this feature which is as drab as Kumar’s unwashed get-up.
The backstory on why Bachchhan Paandey became a cold-blooded criminal is laughable. Enter another unconvincing candidate: a winsome Jacqueline Fernandez who plays a tourist who falls in love with a younger and slightly less morally depraved Paandey. But their love story is cut short by another set of thugs who are out to get them. The whole chapter looks impossibly staged and a scene that is meant to humanise Paandey leaves you unmoved.
As a viewer, you feel as if you are watching a painfully elaborate gangster drama that thrives off being senseless. At no point do we laugh with Paandey or at him, his worst fear. He aspires to have a deadly grip in his territory by instilling fear, but all we feel is a sense of boredom and detachment. Accomplished actors such as Pankaj Tripathi and Sanjay Mishra are thrust with ridiculous roles. And Bollywood’s crass obsession with making fun of people who stutter or stammer continues. Apparently, it’s funny but nobody apart from this crew seems to be in on the joke.
The film also banks heavily on Kumar’s star power to elevate the shoddy writing and preposterous storyline. While it works for a bit, no star with his wattage or a winsome/charming actress can rescue a film that’s inherently boring. If you are smart, then dodge this bullet of a film.
Film: ‘Bachchhan Paandey’
Director: Farhad Samji
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kriti Sanon, Arshad Warsi and Pankaj Tripathi
Stars: 2 out of 5