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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Revolver Rani, Review

Revolver Rani

One can be pardoned for linking two films with the same name and imagining for a while that the latter might be a remake, especially if both are titled Revolver Rani, even if the new one is released 43 years after the original. Both are bound to have a female in the title role and both would obviously show her blazing away to glory.

The earlier film was released in 1971, director K.V.S. Kutumba Rao, B & W and had Vijayalalitha as the Rani. It was dubbed in Hindi from a Telugu original. Vijayalalitha went on to star in over a dozen spy/action/adventure films, many of them dubbed or remade in Hindi: Goodhachari 116 (Farz), Rani Mera Naam, Baazigar and more. Rani Mera Naam came after Revolver Rani. In the present case, Revolver Rani comes in the wake of heroine Kangana Ranaut’s highly successful, Queen, a film in which a small-town Indian girl goes abroad and has a hell of a good time. In Revolver Rani, the heroine thrives on a staple 'diet' of 100 bullets a day, and only when she gets pregnant does she want to give up everything and go to “Benice”. Whether RR 2014 is inspired by RR1971 is difficult to say, but yes, in ’71 too, the woman is one hell of a kick-ass character, as is the 2014 queen.

Set in the dacoit-infested areas of Madhya Pradesh (Morena, Chambal) and shot in director Sai Kabir Shrivastav’s home town of Gwalior, RR is a gun-feast, with over-the-top characters. Alka Singh (Ranaut) wears strange costumes, stranger sunglasses and strangest underwear (metallic bra, no less). She runs a two-member political party, along with Balli Mama (Piyush Mishra), who wields the remote, not guns. They actually contest elections! Udaybhan Singh (Zakir Hussain) is a minister who is desperate to retain his seat, obtained by unethical means, and spends half his active time trying to stop his lackeys (Zafar Khan, Jami Jafry) from planning raid after raid to eliminate Alka. The two keep shouting at the top of their voices, in every scene, that they will make mince-meat out of her, and keep firing bullets all around, to show that they mean business. Rohan (Vir Das) is an aspiring but untalented actor who appears for an audition in boxer shorts (everybody in the all-male audition wears very little) and strikes a chord with Alka, the Chief judge, with a passionate passage on love. The bullet-spraying Alka, a widow who pumped 24 bullets into her husband when she caught him cheating, takes a liking to him and asks him to move in as a live-in lover. Some torrid love making follows, with Alka in firm control. He calls her Coco (as in coconut, hard exterior, soft heart) and she names him Chamcham (an Indian candy form). All set for manipulation, deceit, sting operations and more gun glory.

Kangana has vulnerable features and a figure that is on the slimmer side, all of which are well concealed below dark glasses and fancy get-up. To make her look bosomy, there is a bath-tub scene which does the needful. Of course, she walks with a swagger, shot in high-speed. One may not identify Kangana as a tigress in bed, so, to make things more credible, a lot of the bed scenes are shot with her back to the camera. It is also possible that the censors have deleted bare-breast footage, like they have muted out expletives that both she and other actors mouth. It’s a feisty performance on face value. Try and de-structure the character, and the inconsistencies show.

Das, a stand-up comedian who has been in films since 2007 and was last seen in Shadi Ke Side Effects, carries strange expressions: sneer, I don’t know what’s going on, I know what’s going on but I do not care, What’s in it for me? etc. There are several scenes in which he wears only briefs and appears to do nothing but enjoy a session in a flower-laced huge bath-tub. Piyush Mishra, of the National School of Drama and a friend of the Shrivastav family in Gwalior, rarely goes wrong. He is in good form here too. Zakir Hussain is capable of much more and much better stuff than he delivers. Zeeshan Quadri as Pilot is good. Support from Kumud Mishra, Pankaj Saraswat, Mishka Singh and Preeti Sood is competent. The actor playing UdayBhan Singh’s boss, apparently the Chief Minister, neither looks the part nor speaks Hindi with the kind of accent that was required.

Born to doctor parents, Sai Kabir did joined theatre before completing his Engineering degree. After leaving theatre, at the age of 21, he assisted Kundan Shah, Saeed Mirza and Aziz Mirza. Before turning to direction, he wrote films like Kismat Connection and Lamhaa: The Untold Story of Kashmir and Chatur Singh Two-Star. Chemistry, his first film as director, has been lying complete for about three years now. It stars Shreyas Talpade (also co-producer) and Soha Ali Khan.

RR suffers from an identity crisis. It is black comedy, political intrigue, satire on TV-sting operations, butchery of Urdu language and poetry by TV news anchors-reality shows, anarchy and total lack of law and order, Coco and Chamcham’s love story, one scrupulous woman against a whole unscrupulous small town…and almost all in equal measure. Sai has a narrative style that can be better employed. One instance is the part where Alka is kept under sedation and manages to sneak out. Although she keeps making sounds and giving expressions, including shooting and kicking things, the film seems to stop. Yes, there is élan, there is devil-may-care, there is little respect for understatement or concerns about censor guidelines. Sadly, it seems that he has placed the pieces of the screenplay jigsaw in the wrong slots, often using a big one where a small one would fit, and vice versa.

It’s nice to hear the voices of Asha Bhosle and Usha Uthup on the music track.

Revolver Rani, produced by director Tigmanshu Dhulia, runs for 2 hours and 19 minutes, which is just about 19 minutes too long.

Rating: **1/2


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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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