Direction: Kunal Deshmukh
Actors: Kay Kay Menon, Emraan Hashmi, Paresh Rawal, Humaima Malick
A murderous, cricket-obsessed tycoon from Cape Town is conned into buying a cricket team that doesn’t exist. Raja Natwarlal is the story of that con.
As I watched, I wondered how Varda Yadav (played by a tiresomely predictable Kay Kay Menon) became, as we are told, arbo ka maalik. Because this billionaire is an idiot.
If you can get past the foolishness of the plot, director Kunal Deshmukh’s film is mildly engaging. Emraan Hashmi plays Raja, a charming, street-smart hustler.
Tired of small cons and greedy for big money, Raja steals money from the wrong guy, Varda. Raja’s partner gets killed and now he wants revenge. But first he finds a mentor, Yogi (played by Paresh Rawal), who teaches him the art of the con and anoints him ‘Naye India ka naya Natwarlal’.
What’s fun here is the process of the con, how Raja, Yogi and their motley crew actually pull this off. The big climactic twist is also interesting.
But the trouble is that the con is so far-fetched and half-baked that it’s hard to applaud these men. Inexplicably, whenever the action picks up, Kunal dilutes it with forgettable songs. The love angle — Raja is besotted with a bar dancer played by Humaima Malick — is dead on arrival. Humaima was so memorable in Pakistani films like Bol, but there’s little evidence of her prowess here; she’s reduced to a prop wearing sequins. It’s also sad to see the talented Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub wasted in a sliver of a role.
Still, Raja Natwarlal isn’t one of those actively awful films. But neither does it sparkle.