Rowdy Rathore

2012
Directed by: Prabhudeva

Rowdy Rathore is a badly sewn together quilt of two entirely different films. On one hand, a violent action film; on the other a throw back to 90s SRK-Kajol-YRF blockbusters. Though disjunctive it manages to work as a Masala throwback and play homage to a few of the classics. If you saw the recent adaptation of Aagnepaath and if you’ve seen Sholay and Dabanng you’ve seen Rowdy Rathore. While RR feels a touch stale, it does possess a certain sparkle unique to itself.

In all honesty the movie would have functioned beautifully if all of the pre-intermission stuff had been scrapped. Spending 1+ hours on the development of one story just to (almost) throw it away just before intermission was grueling. Sure, I want my filmi love story as much as any other auntie sitting in the audience but it was all but neglected once it had had gone as far as it could with its limited scope.  The post-intermission half was more engaging and had an obvious agenda. The change in direction half way through was simply confusing.  It would have been much more clean to condense the first half of the story to 30 minutes, interspaced more of the songs into the latter half and run the stories simultaneously rather than as separate Act 1 and Act 2 entities.  Doing so would have relieved a lot of stress in the second half and have given more footing to the wobbly first half.

The first half of the film is decidedly filmi. Colorful, bright, full of large-scale dance numbers with hundreds of backup dancers. There is the ever-present “did she really just fall for that asshat at first sight?” moment but you can’t really escape from that. (I guess. I’m resolved to it). However charming the first half is, it simply had no backbone to stand on past it’s initial 1 hour time slot. Usurped as it was by the second half wasn’t the fairest thing but I do recognize that it needed nudged along to bring it out of its static state.

I’ll be the last person to begrudge the semi-trend of bringing back 70s and 80s Masala but could we lighten up the overt and senseless violence?* It really, really turns me off. Gabbar Singh is an excellent villain because, for the most part, we use our imagination when we consider his actions. The audience doesn’t have to be subjected to multiple fights scenes with machetes and tomahawks (in Bombay in broad daylight, no less) with body counts in the hundreds to take a villain seriously.  The audience’s imagination shouldn’t be neglected just because we’re watching a film—employing some tactics from stage productions (namely: less is sometimes much more) would both clean and class up this movie.

Some of the moments in this movie were barbaric. While we know the “good guy” is focused on justice it feels exceptionally skewed when we have to sit through the “good guy” fighting off no less that 50 goons and killing them all while his very young daughter watches on. The pursuit of justice, no matter how noble the intention, simply falters when your “good guy” becomes a mass murderer.  Also: celebrating the fall of the dacoit but stringing up his dead body and dancing around it with the villagers is horrific on any level and it left an awful taste in my mouth as the final frame in the film.  It was morbid and macabre to a point that made me uncomfortable.

RR fell into bloody hack-fest ruts with an attitude that was nonchalantly “well, it is inevitable” rather than as a means to establish characters and motives for the actors to bounce off of.

Aside from the gore and the meshing together of two different films RR is not a total timepass. There are some great comedic moments, the songs are stunningly shot and Sonakshi Sinha sparkles with a Preity Zinta-esque quality that brings everyone around her to life.

I wouldn’t recommend rushing to the theatres for this one, but it’s great for a night in with your trusty Netflix Instant.

Just throwing this out there: is anyone else super surprised that Sanjay Leela Bhansali produced this?

*And I’m no sucker for gore and violence…I was raised on Rambo.

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