Cast: Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Sanjay Mishra, Ileana d'Cruz, Esha Gupta, Vidyut Jamwal
Director: Milan Luthria
Rating: * 1/2
If you are looking for a film that is unintentionally funny because it takes itself so seriously you would think the end-result would be a heist film on a par with Vijay Anand's "Jewel Thief" or at least Milan Luthria's "Kachche Dhaage", then look again.
This is no "Oceans 11". "Badshaho" is a class apart. Seldom have I come cross a screenplay so absurd and bombastic that it qualifies among the most deplorably written feasts of fatuousness in recent times. Making it worse are the performances. So pretentious and hammy are the actors it would be an insult to good taste to call them actors.
Topping the list of performing travesties is Ileana D'Cruz. Playing what looks like a Gayatri Devi lookalike she gives what could possibly rank among the most laughable portrayals of royalty in recent times. Unable to speak one Hindi line properly and housing expressions that range from blank to dumb, Ms D'Cruz makes you wonder how she manages to survive in a business where every wrong move is on camera.
And the camera in this Rajasthan-based is manned by Sunita Radia with a roaring ruggedness and a penchant for flavourful dusty colours which fly furiously in our faces forever scoffing the insipid storytelling.
Not that "Badshaho" has any dearth of noise and colour. The screen is clogged with mindless mayhem and a riot of blinding colours. Surely this swirl of synthetic drama would have a desired impact at some point? But no. The absurdities abound to the extent that you wonder why Rajat Arora wrote this bombastic screenplay in the first play.
And what is Ajay Devgn doing here? Undoubtedly the superstar of the show, he has an ill-defined role. He tries to get past the limitations impinged on his character. His Rajasthani accent slips in and out like a moody oil slick. He plays right-hand to Rani Ileana D'Cruz who is as slippery a woman as any that God invented since Man realized that the organ in his pants is meant for more than just peeing. Rani Sahiba smooches her orderly in the open fortresses of Rajasthan with her bareback suggesting nudity.
Would any Rani worth her crown get naked and smooch her subject in full view? Ileana is not the only one indulging in incoherent nudity. When we first meet Vidyut Jamwal - yes, that paragon of wooden expressions, is also in the cast - he is sitting naked in a train. Probably waiting for someone to pull the emergency signal.
Oh, and the aforementioned Rani Sahiba smooches Jamwal too in a prison cell where she is locked up during the Emergency. Wish someone had locked away this film's screenplay and forgotten the key.
Why the Emergency? What is its relevance to the plot except to have a Sanjay Gandhi lookalike (Priyanshu Chatteree) make cheesy passes at the Rani. Later we see him zonked out of his senses with semi-naked girls lounging on the floor.
Sanjay Gandhi is not the only one slandered by this perverse action film. Talented actors like Sanjay Mishra and Sharad Kelkar seem to be puppets of a fate controlled by forces far beyond the precincts of coherence and logic.
And Emran Hashmi, dear fans, do say a prayer for his dead career. His Rajasthani character with kohl in the eye and a perpetual smirk on the lips would probably have been more bearable if he didn't have to romance the vacuous bimbo named Esha Gupta.
Just why the film industry tolerates the likes of GuptaA and D'Cruz is a subject worthy of a thesis. Or just why we the audiences are expected to tolerate a film so steeped in self-congratulations that it can't see how ridiculous it looks as four mercenaries played by Devgn, Hashmi, Esha Gupta and Sanjay Mishra, set off to rescue the aforementioned Rani's gold collection from the Government.
It is hard to believe that Milan Luthria who once upon time gave us "Kachche Dhaage" and "The Dirty Picture" and the immortal songs of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan would here be reduced to reviving his comatose career with a gold-rescue plan that is harebrained and untenable. And the songs are so forgettable you wonder which would be obliterated from our minds first. The songs or the film?
It's race to the finish for Luthria.