ENTERTAINMENT

‘Sooryavanshi’ review: Nursing the other virus

‘Sooryavanshi’ review: Nursing the other virus, the vie

The text packs a punch; it is the subtext of Rohit Shetty’s action-entertainer that is problematic

The decision to hold the release of Rohit Shetty’s most ambitious film till the pandemic went into remission was right. The sound and fury of the film demanded a theatrical release and it’s good that the audiences were not asked to negotiate with two pandemics simultaneously.

Like its hero, the screenwriters indulge in multiple somersaults to ‘balance’ the narrative but can’t save the Akshay Kumar-starrer from relentlessly planting seeds of suspicion against a particular community.

With Sooryavanshi, Rohit, known for conjuring mindless entertainment and visceral action choreography, attempts to deal with complex issues. He opens with the much-abused Gandhi quote: an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind, but loses faith midway, and decides to reduce the ‘opponent’ to a pulp.

Much like a section of politicians, the politics of the film uses the shield of our brave policemen to scratch the wounds of the past and cover them with the tape of jingoism. It goes on to tell us that one community moved on but some members of the other faith remained stuck in the past and are now using religion to strike back.

The film wants us to believe that a large number of nationals of the neighbouring country are living around us under a false identity. They marry locals, conduct business and are waiting for the orders of their masters to bleed Indian by plotting a repeat of the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai. Rohit is silent on who is harbouring them, perhaps, it will be the subject of a future film in the franchise. Right now, we can do with the trivia that a prominent member of the sleeper cell in the film is named Mukhtar Ansari.

As for nuance, the film subtly makes a distinction between the long-bearded, short bearded and the clean-shaven Muslim. One who goes to Ajmer is not shown offering prayers, but those who bomb cities pray religiously. And during the climax, with “Chhodo Kal Ki Batein” playing in the background, it provides a guideline for safe existence in the neighbourhood. Really!

What is not so subtle is the constant reminder of the surname of the cop through the background score. One doesn’t know about the cop universe of Rohit but wonder what Vijay Khanna (Zanjeer), Anant Velankar (Ardha Satya) and Ajay Rathore (Sarfarosh) would be thinking!

Every time Riya (Katrina Kaif), perhaps the conscience keeper of the film, reminds her husband Vir Sooryavanshi (Akshay), the one-many army, to have a look at what’s happening in his own ‘house’ and he doesn’t listen, one gets a feeling that it is some meta-reference devised by the writers to tell the audience that we all live in glass houses. Had she been given a little more voice, she might have told Simba, when he gets into a lecture mode during the walloping climax, that terrorism is not just affecting tourism and entertainment in the neighbouring country, we are also facing the heat of hate.

On the surface, Rohit lives up to his strengths. The action is top class, jokes connect and there is no limp in the pacy narrative. Flaunting grey sideburns, and aviators, Akshay, in the Tom Cruise mode, performs a series of whistle-inducing stunts, and his comic timing hasn’t aged. The self-reference jokes reminding him of his age consistently hit the target.

Singham (Ajay Devgn) and Simba (Ranveer Singh) add both muscle and merriment to the climax and till then a robust support cast brings out the layers in the narrative. Gulshan Grover shines as the evil Usmani and Kumud Mishra makes us empathise with the dilemmas of Bilal Khan. Jackie Shroff, Javed Jafferi and Abhimanyu Singh are not found wanting either. But it is Katrina who surprises in what seems like a typical two-songs, three scenes kind of role. It will go down as one of her most convincing performances.

Overall, it is a Deepawali cracker that lights up the sky but covers the soul with soot.

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