Film: ‘Bell Bottom’
Director: Ranjit Tewari
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Adil Hussain, Lara Dutt, Huma Qureshi
Stars: 2.5 out of 5
‘Bell Bottom’ is a thriller about saving 210 passengers from a hijacked plane that takes off from India, but it’s more about Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar saving the world in stylish flared pants.
The political thriller, that had immense potential, never lets you forget that it’s being led by an actor with blistering star wattage. It works for a bit but gets tiring after a point. The film would have benefited hugely from a tighter style of presentation.
Set in 1984, ‘Bell Bottom’ chronicles the covert operation conducted by India’s intelligence agency RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) on foreign soil to extricate a couple of hundred hapless passengers from the clutches of ruthless extremists. It’s inspired by a real-life incident, but creative liberty has been taken generously. The first precious 20 minutes are spent building Kumar’s character Anshul (code name Bell Bottom) into this perfect son, stellar husband, unbeatable chess champion, and a good bloke. A romantic song where you see Kumar romancing a much-younger actress Vaani Kapoor is also thrown in, before they get down to the actual business.
The scenes where we see Kumar’s macho character crying at the airport as he drops off his flashy and flamboyant mother (Dolly Ahluwalia) at the airport is a bit of a stretch. A Herculean effort is being made by the team to showcase the lead actor as a pristine human being with no evil bone in his body.
As a viewer, you often wish that the effort had instead gone towards fleshing out other characters in the film. Lara Dutta, in layers of prosthetics, plays the stoic Indira Gandhi who sanctions ‘Bell Bottom’ to conduct a covert operation without succumbing to the extremists’ demands of releasing prisoners lodged in her prisons. She comes across as harsh and emotionless, just like the other supporting characters such as Adil Hussain, who plays Kumar’s boss Santook. He may be Kumar’s boss and higher in rank, but Kumar is often found explaining the intricacies of geopolitics to his senior and infantilising him.
But that’s not to say that there’s not any fun to be had in this thriller. The parts where Bell Bottom and his disparate team reach the Middle East and successfully manage to save the passengers without shedding any blood has its thrilling moments. But the good parts are smothered in layers of Bollywood-style filmmaking.
The film also benefits hugely from the timing of its release. It has been more than a year since a star-led film has released in the cinemas worldwide, so you find yourself a lot more forgiving.
The second half and the climax — which reveals a foxy twist — is infinitely better than the first half. Also be warned, no love has been extended towards exploring the psyche or trauma of passengers in the hijacked plane or the troubled existence of the extremists who resort to violent, blood-soaked means to attain their goals.
The film is bumpy, but the ride isn’t uncomfortable. Watch this film if you are in the mood to see a stylish hero save the world in fashionable pants.