Film Review: 'Gunday'
Opened: 14 February 2014
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Irrfan Khan, Saurabh Shukla.
Director: Ali Abbas Zafar
Producer: Aditya Chopra
You can never take a film like Gunday seriously. I didn’t which is why I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is essentially a throwback to those yesteryear films from the 70s and 80s – yes those very same ones that were so outlandish, loud and kitsch and yet, despite all their flaws, they left you satisfied and with a grin after you left the cinema, and yet left absolutely no lasting impact whatsoever. If you were born around that time, you’ll get what I mean.
The story is set in the 1970s, Kolkata's most unsettled times, and revolves around two inseparable friends – Bikram (Ranveer Singh) and Bala (Arjun Kapoor), small time, inconsequential wagon breakers and coal thieves, who go on to become powerful members of the mafia. Their life goes topsy turvy however, and their friendship goes through its most enduring test yet after a pretty cabaret dancer, Nandita, (Priyanka Chopra, looking smoking hot) makes an ‘entriyaan’ and sweeps both of them off their feet. Amidst all this chaos they also have A.C.P. Satyajeet Sarkar (Irrfan Khan, in probably the most extended ‘special appearance’ in recent times) to contend with – a cunning man of the law on a mission to stop the two dead in their tracks.
Gunday very nearly succeeds in being a perfect ode to the Manmohan Desai school of cinema, and you can almost sense director Zafar’s tribute to leading actors and actresses of the time. Arjun and Ranveer intentionally play to the gallery and very nearly pull off an Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna/Shashi Kapoor, while Priyanka, in her own way salutes the Parveen Babis and Zeenat Amans of the time, especially in the ‘Asalaam E Ishqum’ number, where I could’ve sworn one of the moves is a direct lift off Parveen Babi’s in ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’ from Namak Halaal.
Gunday works in the first half – Ranveer and Arjun’s bromance comes across well, and hides some very glaring flaws in the narrative (it’s never quite clear why Nandita makes the choice she does for example), but the pace of the film dips in the second half, the last twenty minutes especially, and the screenplay goes for a toss, which is a real shame.
Credit where it’s due though. Even if the action sequences mostly border on the preposterous, everything about the film looks grand – and overall it's a huge departure and a massive improvement over Zafar’s Mere Brother Ki Dulhan for the same production house a few years back. Musically too, Sohail Sen churns out a few peppy numbers which come alive on screen not just because of their infectious compositions, but for their polished look and cinematography.
Gunday is all about the guys, their swaggers, their torsos and their bonding (verging on homoeroticism in fact!), and it is here where it scores, especially because both Arjun and Ranveer play to the gallery full on and seem to have a ball whilst doing it.
The film undoubtedly rests on Ranveer’s able shoulders and he carries off the cockiness, the swagger, and the brooding machismo with aplomb. Arjun, in comparison, is a little raw around the edges, but still displays an acting range that is impressive for his third film. Priyanka is efficient in a part she can probably play in her sleep, appearing a little forced in the film’s earlier scenes, but truly coming into her own in the emotional ones (particularly in a confrontational scene with Arjun), which by now are her forte. And if I hadn't mentioned already, she looks amazing in the film, even if a little out of place with her overtly glamorous wardrobe. Irrfan Khan, has more of the film’s applause worthy lines and he delivers them with deadpan gusto, although at times it appears as though even he’s having trouble keeping a straight face while delivering the more ridiculous dialogues he's given to mouth. Special mention must be made of Saurabh Shukla too who’s expectedly dependable in a small but significant part.
I’m going with three stars for Gunday. It comes from a time when I was growing up (so yes a long time ago!), and was used to watching films where everything was loud and full on, the protagonists were virtually undefeatable and heroines were around to merely shimmy around the heroes and serve as eye candy. It’s pure masala – escapist cinema at it’s best, and you’ll have a ball, especially if you don’t question too much of its logic and enjoy it for what it is.
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