Movie Reviews

Players review

A still from 'Players'

Cast: Bobby Deol, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Abhishek Bachchan, Bipasha Basu, Sonam Kapoor, Omi Vaidya, Sikander Kher, Vinod Khanna, Johnny Lever

Directed by Abbas-Mustan

Rating: Game Over

Desi versions of Hollywood thrillers are like ‘first copy’ bootlegs from Thailand. They initially look approximately the same but later the threads begin to wriggle out. So when director duo, Abbas-Mustan took on ‘The Italian Job’, Benny Hill became Neil Nitin Mukesh, everyone double-crossed and obvious lines were exchanged with a grim face. Now, tough guys don’t snigger until they’ve outwitted someone or unless they’re delirious like Mogambo! But our bad boys are, firstly, not all boys and their badness is mostly restricted to the leather jackets rented from MJ’s ‘Bad’ music video. So looking grim is a ritual observed throughout the audience.

Most would vaguely know about the original gold heist comic caper so let’s go straight to the singular flourishes added here. Veteran robber, Victor Dada (Vinod Khanna) is teaching cops in prison about criminology. He has a long black coat slung over his prison uniform. If you think you’re dreaming, in the very next scene, his lawyer Charlie (Abhishek Bachchan) casually strolls into prison and concludes his lecture. I think prison is being confused for an old-age home with flexi-visiting hours. Later when Victor is to be operated for a terminal condition, the very same cops get dutifully sentimental and instruct the surgeon, “Doctor saab, please inhe bachaaiye… humein inse bohot kuch seekhna hain.” And that is the sum total worth of his life?

Anyway, Charlie is the man with the master plan for this international chori. He is loved by both the leading ladies, few of the leading men and some of the extras. While he casts a gang of singular talents, his own span across the spectrum, earning him maximum screen space and the privilege to pronounce ‘mourning’ as ‘morning’.

Among the members in Charlie’s crew, the most peculiar back story is that of the world famous illusionist, Roonie (Bobby Deol). He almost breaks down reflecting on it, saying, ‘Magic se sirf duniya barbaad hoti hain’. The flashback is of a freak accident during an elevation act involving his daughter that manages to trick no one. And now that his daughter is paralyzed, he wants to partner in this crime to build a house that operates on mere gestures (he actually says this!). He also does sufficient dialogue-baazi, circa 1980s, to prove his intent and ability with cheese burgers like, “Bada player banna hain toh bada risk lena hi padta hain.”

Trying to infiltrate and deceive the Russian army and slip out with cartons full of gold bars can require meticulous planning and military precision. But in an Abbas-Mustan movie, it’s a far less complicated affair. Full-time automobile expert, part-time item girl, Riya (Bipasha Basu) shakes her hips for the concerned chief military personnel and before he knows it, he’s out of his pants and on the floor being photographed from every angle like a Chinese manufacturer looking for a prototype to create bootlegs.

The film also has curious elements that may never find scientific explanations. Like when Charlie pushes the carriage vault, it pulls open instead! And why does explosives expert, Bilal (Sikander Kher) convey his supposed deafness with expressions like a werewolf on a full moon night? Or how does Victor’s techie daughter, Naina (Sonam Kapoor) suddenly master kickboxing and seductive hip flexing (which by the way is as asexual as a tomato seducing a potato in a salsa salad).

Adapting from a book and adapting from another film have one constant: both are subjected to comparison. That aside, the larger argument here is whether adapting from a film is ethical or not. Some directors respond to this reflexively, saying that it only helps narrate a good story to a larger audience or that it is a fond tribute. But a remake of ‘The Italian Job’ which makes the defining chase sequence look like a rickshaw chugging over monsoon-corroded roads refutes both these rationales. Definitely a job taken not so seriously.

You can reach me at guha.kunal@rocketmail.com or connect with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter

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