The number of times Ranbir Kapoor, that simmering restless bundle of unstoppable talent, calls himself 'besharam' (shameless) in this movie is not funny. And with good reason, one might add.
The plot is evidently written as a back-handed homage to the 1980s and 90s cinema of outlandish logistics where coincidences covered up for the lack of a sound sense in the script, and every actor screamed his or her dialogues to conceal the embarrassment of doing stuff that no one with an iota of intelligence would attempt.
But even the logistics of the cinema of the absurd had a rhythm of its own.
"Besharam", however, is devoid of rhythm, sur or taal. It's shot like an ongoing television sitcom where the actors are clueless about which way the intended laughter would take them. Everyone in the movie, from the redoubtable Rishi Kapoor to the gifted-in-her-own-right Himani Shivpuri, is in it just for fun.
I am sure the script, when it was narrated to the actors, must have had them in splits.
And why not? Director Abhinav Kashyap's debut in Dabangg gave a new language to the Hindi commercial cinema. The language of cocky hero-giri. But then, "Dabangg" featured Salman Khan who does not need to act to impress audiences. He does not even try.
Ranbir Kapoor in "Besharam" goes the other way. Every scene in the film is an "acting" moment. Ranbir does the equivalent of a very accomplished gymnast who must impress the sports council that he is qualified for the next Olympics.
The director obviously thinks very highly of Ranbir's talents. So do we. But does that mean he must attack every scene like an audition? There is a desperation in the narration hidden out of our view, but discernible nonetheless. A desperation to project the protagonist as infinitely wacky.
Cynical disregard for basic decency is meant to be cool in this film. In the endeavour to imbue Ranbir's car-thief character with a sense of mischievous artlessness, the narration becomes woefully heavy-handed. The tone adopted is that of a conversation between two reputed stand-up comedians who are out to prove they can convey the seriousness of existence even while maintaining the jokey tone.
Everyone, barring the villain Javed Jaffrey, is given funny lines. They speak it with with twinkle-eyed pleasure that, alas, is lost somewhere as it makes its way from the screen to the audience. There are passages of excruciatingly gauche writing where the actors run around in circles, trying to be cute replicas of characters from the movies in the 1990s.
Among these aimless drifters in the province of the potboiler are Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh">Neetu Singh, playing a corrupt quarrelsome Haryanvi cop couple. Their roles seem to start with the firm resolve that their real-life relation to the hero would be kept completely out of bounds. But then, as the script progresses, real-life references like "Tum toh meri maa samaan ho" ("You're like my mother") and "Main tera baap hoon" ("I'm your dad") creep in, until the margin of satire shrinks to the extent of being non-existent.
The trouble with mainstream Hindi cinema is that when all is said and done, it is nothing but a star-vehicle. "Besharam" stars off cocking a snook at conventional trappings. It eventually ends up sucking up to cinematic cliches, and with not even a pretence of subtlety.
"Besharam" is clogged with plot-holes into which the characters happily fall. There they remain happily wallowing in the uni-dimensionality of their narrow world-view.
The fuss, if you must know, is over a posh car bought by the girl that our hero, Bunty, has fallen for.
That the girl, Pallavi Sharda, seems to belong to another plot and another film is besides the point.
Bunty loves her, period. And what follows is a series of goofy escapades where Bunty outwits the villain. Laughter.
It is sad to see Rishi Kapoor reduced to sitting on the potty and noisily clearing his bowels. And at one point, the heroine herself asks: "Yeh thoda vulgar nahin ho gaya?" ("That got a little vulgar?")
Enough, as they say, is too much.
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