Saturday, June 11, 2022

Review: Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai

Most Salman Khan films now are just a bunch of references to earlier, slightly better Salman Khan films. These are interspersed with fight scenes with (one imagines) a well-paid team of body doubles for the 55-year-old star, who does less and less with each successive film, unless he has Ali Abbas Zafar pushing him to try something, anything. Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai has in-jokes about Khan's Bandra home, his record of releasing films on Eid, his long-running gig as Bigg Boss host. It repurposes lines from his Mountain Dew ads (“Darr ke aage... zindagi”) and the 2009 action film Wanted. “Ek baar commitment kar di toh main apne aap ki bhi nahi sunta,” Radhe growls, before adding, “I will clean this city up.”

Radhe is post-criticism, post-intelligence, post-caring. It’s barely a film—but that’s not surprising coming either from Khan or director Prabhudeva, whose last collaboration was the mind-melting Dabangg 3 (2019). Radhe is mercifully under the two-hour mark; perhaps the film was cut down from standard theatre length when the makers realized people would be watching it at home. Khan plays the now-familiar figure of the Bollywood killer cop—97 encounters, 23 transfers—called in to put an end to the drug-peddling of Rana (Randeep Hooda) and his associates. Khan does this singlehandedly, as you’d expect, with time in between to romance Disha Patani, an actor three decades younger than him.

This is an acknowledged remake of the gritty 2017 South Korean gangster film The Outlaws; it takes the story, some of the fights, and the score. But Khan doesn’t have the intensity to do brutal action anymore—he’s barely credible jogging in the park. Everything about the film feels hurried and cut-price. The action has the flat, jerky look of digital. The screenplay is fight dance fight dance sermon fight. Jackie Shroff, playing Khan’s superior officer and Patani’s older brother, looks fetching in a slinky red skirt (don’t ask) but puts in about as much effort as Khan, which is to say no visible effort at all (the scene where the two of them have to act surprised to see each other, but have obviously forgotten how that complex emotion is portrayed, is a classic of sorts).

It’s nice to see city streets on screen, even if it’s a ghost Mumbai. But apart from these glimpses, and moments when the stupidity prompts a chuckle (Khan shouting ‘Undercover!’ as he starts to dance), Radhe is a supreme drag, and another outing for the trigger-happy enforcer cop in Hindi cinema. It’s not as concerned with flag-waving, thankfully, as other recent cop films. The only time the nation is invoked is when Khan repeats the ‘I will clean up the streets’ line and then says ‘Swachh Bharat, jai Hind.’ Had he added ‘Stay home, stay safe, get vaccinated’, this would at least have given Radhe a reason to exist.

This review appeared in Mint Lounge.

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