Review: 'Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty'... Akshay strikes

MUMBAI: Starved of audience-drawing films, exhibitors are going to heave a sigh of relief this week as the old guard, Akshay Kumar, returns with the sort of action drama he is known to excel at. A film about a soldier must be about guns and extraordinary physical prowess, and this film delivers on that front. It also makes a nice change from the many recent films filled with goons driving around in brand-new black SUVs or sedans and brandishing hockey sticks and swords and sickles. What is good about Holiday is that it caters to both, the single screens as well as multiplexes. While patriotism meted out in films is otherwise jeered at, patriotism in the right film released in right atmosphere only adds to the film’s pluses. That is to say, after the recent general elections, the mood and the swing in the country is positive and the feeling of belonging is back.

Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty is a remake of the Tamil film, Thuppakki, also written and directed by A R Murugadoss’ (director Ghajini) of which has also been made in Bengali as Game.

Akshay Kumar is an army man returning home in an army special Western Railway train to Mumbai on a holiday. The engine has developed a snag on the way and the jawans are out in the open enjoying a game of street fight: Akshay vs another tough jawan. This is to establish Akshay’s character and his fighting prowess for the nth time since he was launched.

At Mumbai Central, Akshay is pulled away by his father, mother and two sisters to a family where he is to present himself as a suitor for Sonakshi Sinha. This is a sort of relief since in this long, 2 hour 50 minute film, Akshay is not required to fall in love, pine and all that. This way, he and Sonakshi will help fill the romantic angle without wasting much time and also provide some entertainment in the process.

Producers: Aruna Bhatia, Vipul Amrutlal Shah, Reliance Entertainment.

Director: AR Murugadoss.

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha, Farhad Daruwala, Sumeet Raghavan, Zakir Hissain.

The story starts now. Akshay is on a holiday and meets his old friend, Sumeet Raghavan, a PSI with Mumbai Police. Akshay imposes himself upon him, takes charge of his files and also his case. There is a blast in the street bus and a lot of school children are killed. Akshay chases the bomb planter because he is running away when he had no reason to. Akshay makes the man his personal prisoner to get whatever information he can from him.

It looks like the sleeper cell has been activated by the chief of terrorists; Farhad and 12 members of the cell have been given instructions to place bombs at 12 important locations of Mumbai. Akshay knows the plan and the date. He decides to involve his army colleagues who have all gathered at the wedding of one of the batch. Twelve army experts follow twelve terrorists on a mission to plant bombs. Akshay, who knows the details, is in command and chooses a specific moment when all 12 terrorist planting the bombs should be shot in the army way; right in the middle of the forehead.

A pace is set for a showdown between Akshay, flaunting the Indian army banner, and the terrorist handler, Farhad, also a bag of muscles. Anybody can guess who will win but the script makes it worth your while to go through it because the climax is interesting.

This film, frankly, is not about performances, one does not expect that with Akshay and Sonakshi in the lead. Akahsy’s forte is his fitness and action and he gives all of it here. The stunts, performed by Akshay himself and composed by Greg Powell, are daring and thrilling. Sonakshi Sinha looks fat and unattractive and she also displays all of that here. The third most important character in the film is Farhad, who fits this role like a proverbial glove. Govinda makes a cameo as Akshay’s army commander with comic shades.

The director caters to the masses though he does suffer from a few usual glitches in details. He has got the pulse of the mass. Musically, the film has a couple of good songs with Tu hi toh hai.... being quite lilting while Ashq na ho... has a special appeal. Dialogue is witty at places. Action is excellent, in fact the soul of the film. The action sequences and Akshay do full justice to each other.

Thanks to recent record of Akshay films and admissions and reopening of colleges, the opening response of Holiday is about 10% less than expected but the film should get better over the weekend as the word spreads.

Filmistan............No go

Interestingly, the credit list of Filmistan names Shyam Shroff and Balkrishna Shroff as producers who are a film family of three generation’s standing; they have been into everything from producing-financing films, world rights holders, distributing films, being in exhibition trade in that they have been among the early entrants to multiplex era as well. The film is about India Pakistan people, divided by borders but otherwise so similar. It also depicts two extremes of the population across the line and how the lives of the innocent are dominated by others.

Producers: Shyam Shroff, Balkrishna Shroff, Shaila Tanna, Subhash Choudhary, Siddharth Roy Kapur.

Director: Nittin Kakkar.

Cast:  Sharib Hashmi, Inaamulhaq, Kumud Mishra, Gopal Datta, Waseem Khan.

Sharib Hashmi is a total film buff and aspires to be an actor. While his struggle is on, his roommate, an AD, suggests Hashmi also join as an AD. He explains how many of the top stars of today were AD before they got a break. While on this job, he gets another offer, that of working with a foreign unit shooting a documentary in Rajasthan. Hashmi readily agrees.

It is while Hashmi is driving back to the base after shooting that he is kidnapped by terrorists from across the border. Their plan was to kidnap the white men who had come to shoot the film but in the dark of the night, they kidnap Hashmi. He is taken to a hamlet where a local family of an elderly man, Waseem Khan, and his two sons is asked to look after him and the terrorist group’s two men, Kumud Mishra and Gopal Datt, who will look over Hashmi. Along with Hashmi, they have also brought his camera and film rolls which fascinates Khan’s older son, Inaamulhaq.

Inaamulhaq is also a film buff selling Hindi film DVDs to make a living. He makes sure the others in the village are entertained by arranging film shows on DVD regularly. These are the occasions when Hashmi, otherwise locked up in a room, talks his way out to watch films. He and Inaamulhaq hit it off instantly and become great friends.

Hashmi’s one attempt at escaping is foiled but now he has a friend who has decided to help him. Inaamualhaq tries to get him out in a burkha but again to no avail; they are caught within minutes. Finally, the chief of the group visits the village when Khan requests him to release Hashmi. The chief agrees but Kumud has other plans.

 Filmistan has good intentions and a fair idea to make a small budget film. However, the very premise is not convincing. Even if terrorists have walked into India and kidnapped a man, what are they doing not only keeping him but also wasting their two men on him to keep guard round the clock? Though the film is edited again after Censor, it still feels lengthy as the proceeds become monotonous for the entertainment is provided in the form of hero mimicking various film stars of past and present. There is no apathy either for the cause or for the hero’s situation.

Director has an eye for details. The script needed to be tauter. Songs are used in the background. There is also the use of some old films and clippings which usually finds favour with the audience. While all the performances are good, Hashmi tops with Inaamulhaq coming close second. Kumud Mishra and Gopal Datt are effective.

Filmistan is okay for festival circuit only.

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