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Raja Natwarlal…The con is on you!

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MUMBAI: Raja Natwarlal is yet another Emraan Hashmi fare where he plays a street smart guy who walks on the other side of the law. In his other films, he ends up in romance with an educated/ well placed girl but never lives to tell his story. Here, for a change, he wins it all, his life, his loot as well as his girl and even lives to threaten you with a sequel as is the norm nowadays. There has been a recent con movie in Special 26 (a comparison would be sacrilege) but, Raja Natwarlal is a lift from the 1973 Paul Newman- Robert Redford movie all the way, The Sting, which was about conning people in the name of horse racing, while this one is about doing the same in the name of cricket, the only sport all of India identifies with.

Raja, Emraan Hashmi, is nowhere close to the legendary, Mithilesh Kumar Srivastav aka Natwarlal, the ace conman recorded on Indian police’s history. This guy is a petty conman who picks pockets, or lures vulnerable passer bye on a Mumbai road to gamble on the new version of Rani dhundho, a three card game. Only he changes it to Deepika dhundho as against two cards displaying late Nirupa Roy (bad taste). His partner is these petty tricks is Deepak Tijori, also his mentor and ‘like’ a brother.

In a seedy Mumbai beer bar, Hashmi overhears about an 80 lakh cash transaction between two shadowy people sharing a table next to his. Hashmi smells a major breakthrough to graduate to bigger cons. After all, he needs money as his Rs 10 notes he showers on his love interest, Humaima Malik, in a dance bar where she performs, always looked small compared to a Marwari, also besotted by her who dealt in bigger currencies when it came to pleasing her.

However, Tijori is not very forthcoming with this proposal of Hashmi of planning an 80 lakh hit and he knows the goons dealing in that kind of money can be very dangerous. Hashmi manages to convince Tijori averring to him as this being their first step towards big times. So, the deed is done, 80 lakh is lifted from the goons’ car. It is made to look as easy as removing a car stereo system. Both share the loot equally. While Hashmi goes to the dance bar to shower Rs 1000 notes on Mallik and Tijori spends some on buying gifts for his beloved wife, the victims are soon on their trail.

Tijori is wise enough to know he has been cornered by his victims, he offers to return his share of the loot which he does and gets a few bullets in his chest even as Hashmi watches from a distance. It is revenge time for Hashmi and the idea is to get to the big boss of the guys who killed his friend. The big shot, Kay Kay Menon, who made it big from being a petty con himself, has made it big and to keep away from the Indian police, stays put in Cape Town, South Africa.

But, before taking up this adventurous trip, Hashmi approaches Paresh Rawal, a retired con wizard. Rawal has retired in the land of the Dalai Lama, Dharamshala, for no apparent reason (just a change of location for you).  Rawal logs in with Hashmi, because, after all, Tijori, who was killed by Kay Kay, was his kid brother.

The gang of Hashmi and Rawal descends on South Africa which, while it may not offer much else, does try to please you with a change of location. Kay Kay has one weakness, cricket and its memorabilia. They plan to exploit this weakness but Kay Kay reads them like an open book and the insipid one-upmanship continues till the climax when, unconvincing as it may sound, the heroes win! Not to mention there are no heroes in the whole setup because it is one conman against another and may the better conman win. They have cleaned out Kay Kay wealth amounting to 1500 crore.

Lifting ideas from Hollywood classic is a crime when one taints it, degenerates it and deforms it beyond recognition. Raja Natwarlal is one such. The film has a mediocre script and the ‘I got it’ direction approach. The film takes its audience for granted most of the time but the makers seem to realise their folly and try to explain in last few minutes what happened all along and why and how; some story telling this!! . Musical score, a vital part for a Hashmi film, is a let down here. So does the renowned Hashmi kissing scenes as he might as well be kissing a mannequin instead of Humaima. This film needed a great dialogue track which is just mediocre here. Background music is on familiar tracks.

While Hashmi does his usual stuff one is familiar with from his past many films, Paresh Rawal and Menon land some credibility to the cast and deliver to expectations. Humaima is a bad choice as the heroine as well as the one deserving of the famous Hashmi kisses. The collective star cast does well though some of the casting (as in Mumbai corrupt cop) is out of place.

Raja Natwarlal is a poor fare having opened to poor opening response. In Mumbai, Maharashtra Gujarat, CP, parts of CI and Marathwada in Nizam circuits will be further affected due to the 11-day Ganpati festival starting on the same day as the film’s release.

Producer: Siddharth Roy Kapoor.

Director: Kunal Deshmukh.

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Humaima Malik, Paresh Rawal, Kay Kay Menon, Deepak Tijori.

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