Offensively bland movies often throw up unrelated food for thought. While enduring the painfully boring Holiday, for example, I wistfully wondered how much fun things could be had the filmmaker chosen to change his vantage point: to go from the clichéd hero to the much more interesting character, his hapless (but reasonable) policeman buddy. Played as he was by Sumeet Raghavan, I kept willing the film to cut away from its insipid proceedings to this perfectly likeable cop’s home life, to his miserly wife and his poetry-spouting brother. What a lark that would be.
Alas, this film is made by AR Murugadoss, the man who made Ghajini — and the man who can thus be blamed for our blockbusters having turned dafter than ever. And clearly he and I have very different definitions of the word “lark.”
Holiday calls itself a thriller. And indeed there is a thumping background score and much, much malarkey about sleeper cells and terrorists. In the middle stands Akshay Kumar, with unfortunately flat hair, holding a Rubik’s Cube, and making what appear to be very random assumptions. He’s ridding Mumbai of the scourge of terrorism, and good for him. Because these are simple action movie setups that, despite their harebrained processes, can lead to slick enough thrillers.
Except Holiday ticks in slow-motion. Imagine, if you will, that legendary scene from the first Mission Impossible film with Tom Cruise suspended from the roof. Pure upside-down adrenaline. Now, if Murugadoss were to direct that scene, we’d spend forty minutes watching Cruise finding a shop to buy ropes, figuring which sneakers are least likely to squeak, and then detailing his plan at great length — before eventually executing it in slow-motion with half the shots replayed from different angles. Holiday, obsessed as it is with detailing Akshay’s efficiency, takes obscene amounts of time getting to the point. Remember the endless shots of people walking in Akshay’s Special 26? This is far worse.
Kumar plays army man Virat, a vacationing busybody hunting for a bride. Shortsighted enough to describe Sonakshi Sinha as “naazuk,” Kumar is bowled over watching her box. He proceeds to tap her thigh when she’s in the middle of a judo match, a move that results in her angrily hurling a javelin at him. Unfazed, Kumar pulls a big red heart out his jacket and gladly lets her javelin puncture it. Sure, it’s a throwaway moment from a silly song, but it well captures the spirit of this ridiculously childish romance. Sinha plays a pigheaded and alarmingly superficial sports-nut who, after slapping her father and berating a friend’s husband for being bald, decides mousily to settle for Kumar because, um, good men are hard to find nowadays, y’know?
Kumar, meanwhile, chases bearded men with the kind of parkour enthusiasm one would imagine he saves for those smuggling bottles of Thums Up. Jumping from balcony to balcony — and, as mentioned, from half-formed conclusion to conclusion — Akshay gamely and recklessly heads to the climax. At one point, the actor seems to have forgotten what he’s shooting for. He rounds up his squad, gives them a pep talk about turning sleeper cells into “coma cells,” and then — like a veejay trying out for an IPL-hosting gig — he bounces up, grinning, with a “boom!” (I’m astonished a plug for the next season of Fear Factor didn’t immediately take over the screen.)
It may as well have. Cut down to less than half its running time, Holiday could perhaps have been bearable. As it stands, three hours long and incredibly yawnworthy, it’s the kind of mess that makes you miss scenery-chewing villains like Prakash Raj and long for item songs. Anything for a respite. The audience nearly applauded when the intermission began, I kid you not.
Think you can handle the truth? Holiday is about the brave men and women fearlessly serving the nation and making sure you rest easy. The men and women who take on unthinkable odds, waking up and rushing to theatres first thing in the morning to catch a movie starring the hero and heroine from Joker and made by the guy who made Ghajini. We watch, and we warn, so you may not have to. Because a critic is never off duty.
Rating: 1.5 stars
First published Rediff, June 6, 2014