Cast: Salman Khan, Ayesha Takia, Mahesh Manjrekar
Rating: * & 1/2
From afar, mainstream South seems a circular sort of film industry. A movie is first made in Telugu; then remade in Tamil, if not the reverse. Mahesh Babu plays the hero in one. Vijay, in the other. Both movies make a suitable bang at the box-office. The nation’s mental health be damned. Pokiri (Rowdy, 2006) was one such type. <b2>
Where Hindi movies, released nation-wide and internationally, can barely pick up similar numbers, Pokiri in Telugu, I am told, grossed Rs 47 crore in the state of Andhra Pradesh alone. Its Tamil version, I hear, raked in a further Rs 38 crore from just one state again.
Such Southern commercial success is unlikely to miss producer Boney Kapoor’s twinkling, hungry eyes. He’s been around for years in Bollywood, largely adapting hits from the South. This production of his is Pokiri in Hindi. The director, a creepily elastic dancer Prabhudeva, has been flown in from the Tamil installment. Smoked Salman with cheese plays the hero.
We watch Salman the bhai leching at his heroine through the window of her aerobics classroom. Her posterior (rotund to regional taste) is on full display. The gym’s owner has a problem. “Purrrvart,” he yells. Salman’s cronies aren’t exactly pleased either. He refuses to budge still. Girls stay fighting fit for our eyes only, Salman says. Leching, he subtly argues, is a man’s right. The logic, I presume, will go down well among Romeos of Indian streets. This is where it all starts from anyway.
Yet, Salman the bhai is the supreme protector of a woman’s honour, child’s welfare, and a poor man’s dignity. He is also the sole evil eye and flexing muscle against all forms of pedestrian injustices, when not taking a casual break, vigorously gyrating on demand. That he is also, alongside, a mass-murderer, is merely a minor worry for his confused girlfriend (Ayesha Takia).
This is essentially a B-film with bigger budgets and relatively less emphasis on sex: the kind of films Bollywood used to make until a decade or two ago, and which is now the domain of regional language cinema alone.
Clearly the hero must avenge molestation or rape: here, of two girls, one of them being his love-interest. The gory act itself is delicately choreographed, with the sleeve of the girl’s shirt carefully torn from the sides, as laughing goons fumble at their game (Remember Prem Chopra? Loved him!).
Each sequence of intense action is alternated with a comic number, a song, or a light romantic moment. The script reads almost like a simple dance move: Step 1, Step 2, Step 1, Step 2...
What’s equally important is a bunch of hard refrains that you remember the hero by, or clap to. Even the villain must have a loud say in terse one-liners. Salman’s favourite goes: “Ek baar jo maine commitment kardi, uske baad toh mein khud ki bhi nahin sunta! (My word, over myself)”. He says this a couple of times, and as his sign-off as well.
But sample a better one: Ladki ke peeche bhagega, ladki paise lekar bhagegi. Paise ke peeche bhagega, toh ladki tere peeche bhagegi (You run after a girl, she’ll run away with your money. Run after money, she’ll run after you)." Whistle. Applause.
In old-Bollywood, this is the sort of material they labeled, ‘Highlight after highlight.’ There’s a knock-knock at every second scene, and you can’t tell who’s getting their backsides whooped; never mind, why. Bashing a cop into bits, of course, remains the ultimate national fantasy.
Eventually, the film must climax into the mother of all action sequences. It does. Salman the bhai finally takes his shirt off. The hinterlands will be happy. But what’s the story? Well. That’s what producer Kapoor paid up Rs 12 crore in copyrights for, by the way.
Such s**t, better be hit!