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Gabbar is Back, Review: No, he’s not

Gabbar is Back, review: No, he’s not

In his first incarnation, he was called Ramana. When the Tamil film was remade in Telugu, they called it Tagore. Then came the Kannada version, called Vishnu Sena (deriving its title from the lead actor, the late VishnuVardhan). Now, 13 years after the first film, we have a fourth version, called Gabbar is Back, starring Akshay Kumar, and hitting cinemas 40 years after Sholay, which starred late Amjad Khan as Gabbar Singh, the ultimate villain. Gabbar was a ruthless dacoit, prone to murder and butchery. Akshay mouths some of Gabbar’s dialogue from the classic film, and that is where the similarity ends.

Aditya (Akshay Kumar) is a professor of physics at National College, an institution that does not allow any criminals or police to enter its premises. He lost his pregnant wife Sunaina (Kareena Kapoor Singh) in a building collapse that was the result of a corrupt builder, Digvijay Patil (Suman Talwar) and equally corrupt municipal officials’ greed. Now, he cannot tolerate corruption, and with the help of his ex-students, chalks out a plan to erase the top-most corrupt officials across the state of Maharashtra. Calling himself ‘Gabbar’, Aditya kidnaps Tehsildars, Collectors, Public Works Department officials and even police personnel, and selectively kills them, leaving their bodies hanging in public places. After a chance meeting in strange circumstances, he falls in love with a junior lawyer Shruti (Shruti Haasan), and she too falls for him. Sadhu (Sunil Grover) is an honest constable who, in spite of being educated, is assigned the duty of a driver and made the butt of jokes amongst his seniors. Just because he could not bribe recruiters, he is made to fetch samosas for his bosses. Bent on proving his ability to solve crimes, he takes leave and goes on a mission to trace Gabbar. Since the Maharashtra Police is unable to nail Gabbar, Kuldeep Pahwa (Jaideep Ahlawat), of the Central Bureau of Investigation, is assigned to the case. Destiny, on its part, brings Gabbar face-to-face with Patil again.

Producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali is known for directing off-beat and much raved about films, none of which can remotely be associated with Gabbar is Back. As producer, along with Shabina Khan, he had hit pay-dirt with Rowdy Rathore, another action spectacle, directed by South’s actor-director Prabhu Deva. No wonder this time too, the two have handed over the megaphone to an outsider--Telugu film director Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi, whose name has been abbreviated to just Krish in the credits. This is Krish’s Hindi debut. Written by action-revenge specialist Tamil writer-director A.R. Murugadoss (Ghajini, Jai Ho), the story adopts fairy-tale idealism and, when the proceedings get completely out of hand, provides an abrupt ending that will satisfy censors and law-abiding citizens.

Credited with additional screenplay and dialogue, Rajat Arora comes up with very few lines of merit. For the rest, it is a desperate attempt at clap-trap phrases and half-baked language humour. Aditya’s back-story is confined to his wedding, the building collapse, the encounter with the corrupt gang and his rescue by a bus-load of medical students. There is no rationale to explain what gives him super-human strength and the guile to plan and execute high-profile kidnappings and executions. Both the college and Aditya’s class are unrealistic. It defies common sense to see that during and after committing heinous crimes in full vision and broad daylight, he makes no attempt to conceal his face. What’s more, he keeps sending audio CDs to the police and media where he is clearly heard. On occasion, he comes across as a braggart, seeking fame on television and social media.

Krish has handled the child-birth, the scooter accident and the hospital scenes with flair. However, he shoots a building collapse like a sudden earthquake. The climax is far from convincing, coming on without any motivation, and lacks timing. Also, the speeches and sermons at the finalé are too long to remain impactful. Police officers are shown indulging in idle conversation and ridicule far too often. Yes, Patil is corrupt and ruthless, but how does that give him bare-hand fighting skills, sharp enough to give a cold and calculating vigilante a run for his money?

Akshay Kumar as Aditya/Gabbar put his heart into the film, yet he cannot rise above the script. Shruti Haasan makes a cute and pixie-ish Shruti, and gets a romantic song with Akshay, ‘Coffee peete peete’. Another song is picturised on Kareena Kapoor Singh and Akshay, wherein she is at her seductive, exquisite best. The third song is an ‘item number’, ‘Aao Raja’, with Chitrangda Singh doing the suggestive moves, to lyrics that are as vulgar as they come, carefully couched in double entendre. Neha Kakkar sings like any other item song singer. Sunil Grover’s character is almost unnecessary, but for the need to have someone come-up with an idea to locate Gabbar. As Patil, Suman Talwar is credible and strong, until he is made to spurt out the recurring inanity, “I am a brand.” In a crucial role, Jaideep Ahlawat should have been compelling to watch. Instead, he is burdened with some of the film’s most unintentional laughter-generating lines.

Lyrics range from the pretentious to the banal, only ‘Teri meri kahani’ being hummable. Action scenes are well-handled, and it was nice to see the invincible hero sparring and taking quite a few on his chin. But that was an exception. Not surprisingly, most of the clashes are one-sided.

It has been reported that Sanjay Leela Bhansali came-up with the title, as he did in the case of Rowdy Rathore. Perhaps he thought that the name Gabbar would help widen the audience base, with cinegoers trooping in to see a film about Gabbar Singh. If they do, they will be doubly disappointed. Gabbar is Back is neither a sequel nor about Gabbar. And on its own, it is below par.

Rating: **



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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