Movie Review: Rustom
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Movie Review: Rustom

Is the latest Akshay Kumar-starrer worth your time? Over to City 1016's Lokesh Dharmani

DIRECTOR: Tinu Suresh Desai
STARRING: Akshay Kumar, Arjan Bajwa, Ileana D'Cruz and Esha Gupta
RATING: 2.5 stars

Neeraj Pandey’s films are tricky because they manipulate you to root for the criminal, cheer for the illegal. Despite slight guilt, I found myself cheering for Naseer’s character in A Wednesday because the director played on our anger, our vague sense of resilience. Naseer goes against the law and yet the writing, the direction of the film made him look like a hero. Even in Special 26, the robberies are so deliciously committed with a cocker of a climax at the end that you feel like the head cheerleader of the robbers’ team minus the pompoms that is. I know it’s not fair to compare (but inevitable too), Rustom lacks the empathy of A Wednesday or the intrigue of Special 26.

The film has all the right ingredients to make a flavourful, masala crime thriller. A naval commander kills his wife’s lover and surrenders. There is infidelity, power, national level secrecy and a murder. Alas, the film loses zing in its telling.

The first half comes straight to the point but gets too filmy in the whole process. There are slow motions and jarring background score that ruin the buildup instead of creating one. The heroine dramatically drops her back in shock and looks more like Roli from Sasural Simar Ka than Rustom’s Cythia. I half expected a mother-in-law to show up in garish make-up or someone to turn into a snake or a makkhi. It’s this Ekta Kapoor kind of characters that rob the film of all seriousness it deserves. Sample this: There is Esha Gupta with a resting bitch face.

She is forever seductive in the movie. She gasps and pouts while lighting a cigarette. She gasps and pouts while driving. She even gasps and pouts as she stands in the witness box in the court. She is so pointlessly seductive that she looks like a deo model than the part she plays. Sadly, barring Pankaj Malhotra and Kumud Mishra, rest of the cast doesn’t work too.

Ileana D'Cruz looks fragile and beautiful, but fails to leave much impact. Akshay Kumar plays a Parsi officer with a strange I-am-trying-my-best-not-to-sound-Punjabi accent. He completely loses the character, especially in English lines. The Punjabi gabru in him refuses to leave. The moment he would say, ''That’s all, your honour,'' I almost heard a silent burrrraaah at the end of it.

However, there are some brilliant scenes in the movie.

A one-shot interrogation scene at the police station (that they sadly broke into two cuts) is done so well. It not only gives insights into the case but also builds the required tension. Also, in another scene Akshay Kumar and Pankaj Malhotra come face to face across a game of chess. Though the analogy is done to death, but parallels between the queen on the chess board and Rustom’s wife make for interesting wordplay.

The film has humour that sometimes works, sometimes fails. Four hundred people dead in a train accident that earns the newspaper some 13,500 copies sale is an interesting ode to current generation’s obsession with YouTube hits, Facebook likes and shares, even at the cost of some insensitive pictures or posts. There is a brief scene where a street vendor starts selling Vikram towels inspired by Vikram (Arjan Bajwa) who died in a towel that never came down. He says, ''Lijiye Vikram Towel, marne par bhi nahi girta.'' But humour attempted in the second half of the movie tends to get too repetitive and irritating. A newspaper publisher reprimanded by a judge for his provocative headlines, again, is a subtle hint at modern times’ intolerance but decibel levels hit their unbearable peak when the courtroom scenes turn into some sort of a scream fest. Sachin Khedekar and Usha Nadkarni scream so much that Arnab Goswami sounds like Manmohan Singh. Even the choice of characters in the jury panel that comprises a Punjabi and a South Indian is contrived and a forced attempt at silly humour.

I loved the detailing in the film. They have created an almost perfect world of 1960s. The naval ships, the furniture, the sets, even that Godrej fridge in the kitchen, everything in the film is detailed so well.

Rustom despite having an interesting plot tries to play safe, please everyone and resorts to Bollywood formulae of forced humour and even more forced insipid songs.   

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