Khiladi 420 (2000)
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Mahima Chaudhry,
Director: Neeraj Vohra
Music Director: Sanjeev Darshan
Nutshell: Action fuelled crime drama is technically dazzling if a little OTT
The promos have been on air recently and they looked great. So I was ready to dash off to see this one the moment it hit the theatres. And I didn’t regret that for a moment as I knew exactly what I was going to see, and it wasn’t your usual dhaai akshar prem ke like mundane love story…thankfully.
You may have thought, from its title, that this was going to be a comedy but its certainly not. In fact, a better title would have been Khiladi 302…for reasons that will become to you apparent as the film progresses. Ritu Bhardwarj (Mahima) is worth in excess of 900 crores courtesy of being the only child of a stinking rich father. There is a blind dadi with black shades on, a snivelling little orphaned niece Riya and of course the father (Alok Nath) with an assorted array of servants. In marches Rahul (new stud on the block, muscles and trim haircut), childhood friend and silent lover of Ritu, now training to be a cop. Does this not sound similar to the director’s previous effort International Khiladi???
Anyway, having playfully pushed Rahul into the swimming pool, Ritu and father fly off to Canada where the father is mugged at the airport but valiantly saved by Dev (Akshay Kumar), an expatriate Indian who has many hotels and businesses in Canada. The usual bantering starts between the lead couple with song thrown in for good measure but father and daughter leave Canada before love has had a chance to bloom. Dev shows up in India with his father’s ashes, and weedles his way into Bhardwaj’s office, with talk of settling in India and big business plans. But now we see him for what he really is, not the paragon of virtue that he is making himself out to be but a conman with a tarty girlfriend (Antara Mali), out to devour Ritu’s crores as he is in desperate need to pay off the villains. In fact, as time goes by, we see that he is not simply a conman as per the title of the film, but a psychopathic and murderous character who despatches of Bhardwaj as he stumbled on Dev’s true identity.
All seems well except that the snivelling niece sees him commit the dirty deed. However, she slips into a vegetative state, unable to communicate, due to the shock of the murder. Dev now plans to marry Ritu despite Rahul’s warnings and manages to convince her to do so. Having married her, they go to a lonely large house where the villains all show up demanding their money. Ritu then realises what Dev is all about and he confesses that he plans to murder her and sets about trying to do away with the poor damsel in distress. After surviving a falling chandelier with our couple on it (a la Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in the War of the Roses), Ritu appears to stem the flow by bashing Dev on the head with a metal spike, and believing him to be dead, rushes back home only to be told by the blind dadi that Dev was in the hospital with a head wound and why had she not gone there. She arrives at the hospital to find the murderous Dev, conscious and very much alive. Time for interval.
What follows is a bit of a rollercoaster ride and to give any more of the plot away would be unfair. Suffice to say that although there is an air of predictability about it at this stage because of something which is said earlier in the film, the film does have its fair share of twists and turns before settling down to a tad too convenient climax. However, hats off to the director for making the product one which manages to sustain interest for most part of the 165 minutes running time, especially as this is his first film.
Where the film does fall down is in its script which needed to be tighter and perhaps a little more believable. But you aren’t going to see a Shyam Benegal film with a title like that so leave your brain behind and enjoy it while it lasts. The film is certainly extremely thrilling and some of its action shots are amongst the best seen so far. But technically, the computer graphics do let you down. The image of the giant balloon with Mukesh Rishi in it, rising up behind Ritu is a masterstroke but the effect is letdown by the poor quality of computer graphics. It is still a cut above anything seen before but being used to a certain class in Hollywood, one feels disappointed. It is wrong to compare but when you go for shots like that, then either do them perfectly or then don’t do them at all. So with cars literally raining on our dashing hero in the climax, it does all look a little over the top.
The promos look more impressive because there is less on show. All said and done, this is certainly a cut above the usual action thriller. No great acting skills were required for any of the roles in the film but Akshay Kumar fits the role like a glove. He actually infuses quite a bit into his role and hats off for being to carry it off. Dev has no redeeming features. He is simply evil but Akshay manages to play this evil character with some charm. You even feel a tinge of feeling for this psychopath when Bhardwaj has discovered his true identity and Dev sees his dream of money and making something for himself collapsing yet again. He’s a man on the make, out to make his killing (pun not intended) this time.
Mahima complements him well. Antara Mali is wasted, unimpressive and skimpily clad through out. Her song with all the food and drink being poured on her and Akshay is simply grotesque and a major embarrassment. The music of the film is standard with a couple of fairly decent numbers especially Jaagte hain hum. Thankfully, no comedy. Quite honestly, this had me glued to my seat. Leave your thinking caps behind and go and have some fun. This one doesn’t aspire to be anything else other than a typical masala bollywood film, done differently and manages a fair punch.
One thing which I did not understand was why the dadi had to be blind and why in the world did she wear those huge black shades? Any opinions would be greatly appreciated.