By Subhash K Jha
Film: “Boss”; Cast: Akshay Kumar, Mithun Chakraborty, Ronit Roy,Shiv Pandit, Aditi Rao Hydari, Danny Denzongpa; Directed by Anthony d’Souza; Rating: ****
The second-half of this breakneck-speed, blues-chaser of a movie opens with a long chase sequence through the narrow gallis of a dusty small-town in North India where we last saw Akshay Kumar having a ball in “Rowdy Rathod” and “Khiladi 786”.
Somehow in those films, Akshay ended up having more fun that we did. This time, our enjoyment-quotient matches Akshay’s step-by-step, scene-by-scene, frame-by-frame chuckle for chuckle.
“Boss” is as much fun to watch as it must have been to shoot. Almost every sequence is an ‘item’. And for once the word ‘item’ is not a gaali.
Director Anthony D’Souza who failed so miserably in shooting an undersea adventure thriller in “Blue”, here rises out of the deep to deliver a full-blast rabble-rouser that verifies what Vidya Balan recently said about the movies – “They are all about three things….entertainment, entertainment, entertainment”.
To that we can add another golden rule of honest mainstream filmmaking: kinetic energy. Every moment in “Boss” is a celebration of cinematic conventions derived from decades of Bollywood entertainment.
Family-ties torn asunder by villainous machinations, brothers growing up with different values, and a parent who frowns at the outlawed son’s ill-gotten wealth power.
Damn, Mithun Chakraborty as Akshay’s disapproving father could be Nirupa Roy in “Deewaar”. But I doubt Amitabh Bachchan’s character would see the humour in the violence the way Akshay does. He stops a bone-breaking binge for a titter and then goes right back to thrashing his enemies.
Then there is the deliciously subverted morality of la-la-land. A law-maker who breaks every law of the land, and an anti-social hero who could have ended up being boringly messianic. But just as the character seems to take itself too seriously, Akshay Kumar brings him back a thumping thud, the kind that creates a crater in the ground.
Akshay, God bless his innate sense of joie de vivre underlined by a distant demeanour of unspoken tragedy that shows up in a welter of wistfulness, imparts to the old-as-the-hills heroism, a sense of freshly-found humour.
A sense of sameness had crept into Akshay’s recent serio-comic outings. But in “Boss”, he bites succinctly into his juicy role, creating a kind of precarious balance into a part that blessedly careens more towards self-parody than self-glorification.
And thank God for a formidable adversary! That brilliant actor Ronit Roy as Akshay’s main opponent – a khaki-clad brute named Ayushman Thakur, brings to his role a chilling propensity to turn the colour khaki into a black display of uniformed anarchy.
Ronit’s introductory sequence where he ritualistically murders a cluster of criminals sets the tone for d’Souza’s narration.
Shiv Pandit as Akshay’s sibling displays a sincere screen presence. This newcomer’s best sequence has Akshay comment, “That’s the problem with you newcomers. You need to be shown how to do everything.”
Sonakshi Sinha looking like a full-on heroine, shows up twice, once jiving to a zingy Yo Ho Honey Singh number and finally at the end to pay Sridevi an unexpected compliment.
Sonakshi has no problem fitting comfortably in the screenplay.This is the kind of film that easily absorbs awkward moments into the larger picture. Wisely, this athletic spindly remake of the Malyalam blockbuster “Pokkiri Raja” doesn’t blindly borrow scenes from the original.
Taking the original material, writer Sajid-Farhad have completely reconstructed the material bringing a sense of surging excitement and great fun to the proceedings. The dialogues are bombastic but not repeatedly so.
The elaborate action sequences devised and executed by Anal Arasu are the backbone of the robust narration. Every action sequence is done with virile innovative enthusiasm, thrilling and rugged but never oblivious to the need to lend laughter to the bloodshed.
Hence when Akshay fights a bunch of boorish goons in the first of the many cleverly-executed stunt sequences, out come huge music speakers and three chorus dancers to lend his fisticuffs a rhythmic accompaniment.
We always knew music was never very far off from the soul of Hindi cinema. Boss shows us how and why. Director d’Souza shows a remarkable flair for blending burlesque with violence. Many of the action sequences are over-the-top and yet saved in the nick of time by Akshay’s comic timing from toppling over into an over-done kitschy mess.
The miracle of creating a masala film that doesn’t take itself too serious or the audience too lightly is here achieved with a credible quotient of conviviality and a commitment to preserving the momentum of the narration.
Apart from a couple of loosely-designed scenes (one sequence has the formidable Danny Denzongpa standing around doing nothing, something that this actor is not comfortable doing) and some sidekick characters who are annoyingly intrusive, I found myself completely entertained by the film’s light-weight tone.
This is a fast-paced, zany, full-on masala fare. There is a tempting swagger to Akshay’s performance matched by the narration’s tidal tempo. Irresistible energy and endearing gusto underline the show’s voracious appetite for a comic kill.