Tevar — yet another of those mindless South remakes we’ve been indulging in so faithfully ever since Aamir Khan showed us the way in Ghajini — is a tiring slog, devoid of personality, riding unfairly on the shoulders of a young lad.
Arjun Kapoor, owner of said shoulders, isn’t bad at all. He’s likeable as the local hoodlum, gnashes his teeth with suitable enthusiasm during a fight scene, and the first time he runs into Manoj Bajpai, he chooses to smash Bajpai’s head into the hood of a jeep with a loud and rather pleasing ‘clang.’ Later, when Sonakshi yells shrilly at him, he looks understandably dumbstruck: “Man, did I pick the wrong girl to nab.” Also, to his eternal credit, he calls her a watermelon.
That aside, however, Kapoor can’t quite manage the buffoonish heavy-lifting the most imbecilic of our blockbusters demand: the kind routinely carried off by Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan or Ajay Devgn’s nipples. Here, Kapoor sings about being a Salman fan, which poses the box-office critical question: we know people go to see Bhai, but will they go to see, um, Bhanja?
Because there is no other reason to sit through Amit Ravindernath Sharma’s directorial debut. This simply-plotted film sloppily carries on and on, and while some action sequences have an intriguingly gritty texture — at one point a goon slams Kapoor in the chest with a giant old-school istri — Tevar emerges an overdone, underwhelming film with zero charm. A murder you can see coming a mile away is drawn out long and stretched interminably, made literally into a bloody procession celebrated by the town as folks sing and dance and pray around the gradually slaughtered victim. There is clearly no room for efficiency in this crappy narrative.
And crappy it certainly is. A young Agra ruffian, quick to wallop local lotharios, accidentally saves a Mathura girl from a bigtime Mathura baddie, and much chaos ensues — predictably bloodily, predictably loudly. It’s a chore to sit through this thing, a hundred and sixty inane, hammy minutes. It is so unendingly filmi, in fact, that by the time the hero gets to his feet in the climactic fight, even the villain can’t help rolling his eyes.
Manoj Bajpai, chewing on scenery as if Prakash Jha hasn’t made a movie in months, does however make for an entertaining villain, at least at the start. For example, he proposes marriage with brutal honesty, confessing to the girl that he is a badmaash, sure, but even badmaashes are slaves in front of the missus, and so would miss like a slave? It’s as sincere as slime can be, and if only there was an actual actress in front of him — someone with a spark, capable of stinging with their eyes, like vintage Hema Malini or even current Priyanka/Kareena — it would have made for quite a scene. Unfortunately, all we have is Sonakshi Sinha, reacting to things with a stunning, all-encompassing blankness.
Other decent actors are short-shifted. Raj Babbar isn’t bad as the gruff cop, but the legendary Deepti Naval gets no role, just like the reliably excellent Rajesh Sharma. Shruti Haasan swings by for an item song and looks scorching hot, but is tragically made to lip-sync to a song sung so crudely she soon becomes reminiscent of those hot girls in college you wish you never heard speak.
Things could have been improved with even a smidgeon of character development. If Kapoor’s character Pintoo wasn’t shown just as a friendly fighter but a guy opposed to all exploitation of women, for example. Like the feminist Sonakshi’s dad Shatrughan Sinha played back in Naram Garam. With just two-lines of hero-describing dialogue, Pintoo’s character and motivations could have been established. What we have here is a highly generic ‘Sunny Deol type’ hero, and — in possibly a spoof of the Anurag Kashyap magnum opus — a villain who vows not to put his pants on till he finds the girl. Um, okay then. And since one can’t, in all good conscience, let anyone stray into Gangs Of Jockeypur, consider yourselves warned. Stay away.
Rating: 1 star
First published Rediff, January 9, 2015