‘Brothers’: Messed up

MUMBAI: Brothers was expected to be next best thing to happen after Bajrangi Bhaijaan, at least for the exhibition trade. Coming as it does from Dharma Productions and director Karan Malhotra, who made his debut with the Agneepath remake in 2012.

While Agneepath was a remake of director Mukul Anand’s Amitabh Bachchan 1990 starrer of same name, Brothers, Malhotra’s new film, has been adapted from the Hollywood film, Warrior (2011).

It follows the story of two estranged brothers practising a no-holds-barred body combat sport, which is said to have its roots in ancient Greece and has, since then, travelled through various countries through eras in various forms and finally named as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). 

While, Malhotra tried and made his version of Agneepath more contemporary, here he has tried to make Brothers more Indian in that trying to add desi emotions. In the process he ends up making it dated instead. 

Jackie Shroff is due to leave jail after serving his time and when his possessions are returned to him, the only thing he is looking for is the picture of his wife, Shefali Shah, for whose killing he served the sentence in jail. As he comes out, his son, Sidharth Malhotra, is there to receive him. As Jackie enters his home, he goes hyper, remembering his loving wife, the way she liked her furniture and the way she liked to set her comfort chair where she could read.

You would think that Jackie loved his wife immensely and cared for the family. As it turns out in the flashbacks, Jackie was a drunkard, a wife beater, who was disloyal to her. What’s more, he also brings home the son from his other woman to Shefali. The boy grows up to be Sidharth. This multifaceted characterisation of Jackie is the first hint at the things that will follow. In an attempt to give the film Indian emotions, things have been messed up. 

Jackie is an ex MMA trainer and to coincide with his release, MMA has been legalised in the country! Kiran Kumar, an ex-pro at this sport, has returned to India from the US to promote it and organise a world champions contest. The contest often proves fatal for the loser but certain rules have been formed to make it safe, which are not exactly evident in practise. 

But, there is huge money in this contest of Kiran Kumar and Sidharth want to be a part of it. Jackie takes it upon himself to train Sidharth. It is time for Akshay to make his presence felt. Akshay is the elder and legitimate son who has made his own life and hates Jackie for killing his mother. He is a school teacher, sports tattoos all over, is married to Jacqueline Fernandez and has a six year old daughter.

Akshay’s daughter suffers from an ailment as both her kidneys are weak since birth and she needs urgent attention. To make some side money, Akshay fights in underground MMA for which the school principal reprimands him and later sacks him. His lender refuses to renew his loan and Akshay decides to do the next best thing he knows, go for MMA for the money needed for his daughter. For him, Kiran has come just in time and the ‘TV media’ has gone gaga over him and his contest.

The MMA contest is announced with a huge press conference and a few WWF-reject kind of champions from various countries are introduced with high decibel music in the background, which distracts instead of adding to the effect of the scene. Also on the menu are Akshay and Sidharth, the brothers. 

Sidharth sails through with ease in his initial rounds felling some of the ‘reputed’ fighters in one or two knocks. Akshay has to struggle but, being a hero, manages to win them. It is time for the finals and the opponents are the two brothers putting Jackie in a great dilemma. Somehow, here Akshay proves to be superior to Sidharth because a hero can’t lose. He even manages to break Sidharth’s arm. That is when the director recalls some flashbacks of the brothers’ past, the growing up years and how they cared for and loved each other. And, while pretending to be still fighting, both call for a truce, swearing on their growing up love!

The film has a poor script full of contradictions with its unnecessary and unsuccessful attempt to make it Indian. Direction is patchy with no clue where it is heading. There is no help coming from music or dialogue or romance. The kind of fights the film depends on have been part of innumerable films in Hindi cinema as a passing sequence since 1970s, and here it is the main theme. Editing is missing. 

The film stars mostly non-performers and among them, Jackie excels, Akshay remains his usual self and Sidharth packs his acting and performance in one perpetually sinister look. Jacqueline is fairly good in an insignificant role. Rest are caricatures. 

The theme of Brothers will find little identification with the audience and looks fated to go down unsung. The opening is poor and so are reports.

Producers: Hiroo Yash Johar, Karan Johar, Endemol India

Director: Karan Malhotra

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sidharth Malhotra, Jackie Shroff, KIran Kumar, Ashutosh Rana and Kareena Kapoor in an item number

Gour Hari Dastaan’: The forgettable freedom file

Gour Hari Dastaan is a story that starts in pre-independence days sometime in 1945 and traverses a period of over 60 years. It is a bio-film about a young freedom fighter, who spends most of his life to get his due. He wants his sacrifice and honour to be recognised. 

There have been bio-films on freedom movement of leaders like MK Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Ambedkar, Savarkar and so on. These films were about their big struggles against British rule. Compared to these great names, Gour Hari’s crusade is the opposite: it is totally personal. It is not that he is doing it for pension. He just wants to be certified by the powers that be, as is done by awarding a Tamra Patra (copper plaque usually given to a freedom fighter) by the government along with lifelong pension and other benefits to freedom fighter and his family. 

Gour Hari is a young lad (older one, the crusader, played by Vinay Pathak) yet to knock on his teens but the fire of the freedom struggle has been ignited within him. His desire is to see the Indian tricolour fly high. But this is not allowed since the British rule India and the official flag according to them is the Union Jack. India is not yet free but for some reason, Gour is trying to plant a Congress tricolour with a charkha in the centre atop some single storey structure in his town when a British officer tries to stop him but dies accidentally in the attempt. Nothing points back to Gour or his village; the story never refers to it again. The incident was just supposed to tell you how devoted Gour was to his cause of freeing his country.

After a brief flashback into Gour’s past to establish that he was a freedom fighter, you now see Gour running from pillar to post to get himself identified and get enrolled into the list of freedom fighters. He visits government departments dealing more regularly with them than he signs his own office muster at the Handicraft Board where he is employed. For everybody from his office folk to the neighbourhood, he has become a butt of joke and teased as freedom fighter. But, he also finds a sympathisers in two tabloid journalists, Ranvir Shorey and Tanishtha Chetterjee, who take up his cause against the wishes of their editor, who thinks only stories on gay movement and Section 377 merit coverage. 

Pathak is not willing to compromise or use any short cuts. But, ironically, when he does get his due, it is through an influential high profile lawyer, Rajit Kapoor, who has influence up to and including the Chief Minister, Vikram Gokhale, and is feared enough to threaten him with legal action. 

Sadly, it is Pathak’s reach to the powers that brings him justice at the end of 32 years of struggle and not his crusade! The politicians, wary of the media where Pathak is making prime time, make a compromise, and agree to certify him with a Paper Patra instead of a Tamra Part on the contention that they don’t have budget for Tamra. 

Gour Hari Dastaan is an alien story for the national audience. Like the recent Marathi film,Court, which won the National Award, this film could have served a better purpose in a regional language. 

The film is about performances and, on that count, Pathak leads the pack. It is his story, after all. Ranvir, Tanishtha and Konkona Sen Sharma (as Pathak’s wife) match him step by step. The film has a horde of cameos by Saurabh Shukla, Gokhale, Rajit, Saurabh Shukla, Vipin Sharma, Asrani etc. 

As for the script, while Pathak’s crusade is what most of the film is about, there is not enough footage of his fighting for freedom to make up for his 32 years of chasing authorities. What he did and why he merits his copper plaque find little justification in the film since he is one of the mob protesting and jailed for 90 days but never tried in a court of law. 

The reason why he has to run from pillar to post is because there is no record of him being tried and jailed so he could qualify as a freedom fighter and the benefits, which ensued from it. 

Direction is on predictable lines and suffers because too much time is taken on telling this insipid story. Musical score is good. Editing is overshadowed by the director’s vision. Dialogue is positive and, often, peppered with wit and cutting edge. 

Gour Hari Dastaan has no domestic box office value and will make merry only on the festival circuit. 

Producers: Sachin Khanolkar, Bindiya Khanolkar

Director: Ananth Narayan Mahadevan

Cast: Vinay Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ranvir Shorey

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