Before Amitabh Bachchan changed the direction of the prototypical Bollywood narrative in the 1970s with Vijay the Angry Young Man, there was a popular strain of action-adventure hero typified by Dharmendra in Yakeen - free of social context, free of a sensical plot, and objectified by the camera.
Prince - It's Showtime takes its cues from the Brij school of filmmaking but streamlined for the modern Bollywood audience - fewer songs, no comedy track, and about a 50% reduction in henchmen. Written by Shiraz Ahmed, who was responsible for Race and Karzzz, with dialogues by Mayur Puri, whom we can blame for the dialogues in both Love Story 2050 and Blue, Prince gives us a week in the life of super thief Prince (Vivek Oberoi) and his partner-in-crime/girlfriend Maya (Aruna Shields, Nandana Sen, and/or Neeru Bajwa.) The initial twist comes when super thief Prince wakes up one morning to find that a) he has no idea who he is and b) he keeps having weird spastic fits. Prince has to sort out his friends from his enemies, recover his memories, and pick which of the three Mayas is actually his real girlfriend - and not necessarily in that order. If you've seen Race, you will be familiar with the unspooling of plot twist upon plot twist that accompanies Our Hero Prince as he navigates the maze of clues left for him by various foes and allies throughout the film and if you've seen Love Story 2050, it's clear that the gleefully unironic dialogues come from the same writer. (Will "It's showtime" replace "What? The party's over?" as my favorite line to quote when things get boring? Only time will tell!)
I'm having trouble trying to describe my feelings about Prince - It's Showtime beyond "Vivek's ass looked great in those leather pants" and "Damn, Nandana Sen has some amazing cleavage," so let me run you through a few scattered thoughts on the film.
There will always be a place in my heart for movies where the villains have robot hands and the plot calls for three heroines for no other reason than to triple the amount of skin show we are treated to and Prince fits firmly into this category and in a Bollywood filmscape which more and more often these days aims at an middlebrow audience, I do appreciate the efforts of the Prince team to deliver the masala goods. And, yet, I find there is something always lacking in the story efforts of Shiraz Ahmed, who seems to understand the externalities of the masala potboiler without grasping that real masala needs heart as well as villains with robot hands. Much like Race, the narrative of Prince captures the form of classic Brij-style storytelling without the function - it's like Victoria No. 203 minus Ashok Kumar and Pran, amusing but in the end unmemorable.
I don't want to get too much into plot specifics but I will say that Shiraz Ahmed moves the characters around like chess pieces but always manages to pick the most obvious and least interesting move. Double cross? Check. Black magic? No, just dumb science. Will the computer break down? Probably. Who is that guy? I don't know. What about that one? Nope. Unimportant. After a while, I gave up following the story and settled in for the dishoom-dishoom and unintentionally hilarious one-liners.
The story may be ridiculous but Prince does work as a comeback vehicle for Vivek Oberoi. Unlike Race in which Akshaye Khanna seemed constipated and Saif Ali Khan just stoned, Vivek gamely and energetically stormed his way through every single preposterous plot twist. Whether he was pulling an Evel Kenevil over a giant gulch or listening intently to a government official explain some MacGuffin technology, Vivek was up there in his leather pants giving it 110%. And, as I mentioned before, his ass did look mighty fine in those leather pants. Vivek also managed to stir up a little chemistry with his lady co-stars, even if nothing reached the epic heights of the Hrithik and Aishwarya jodi.
Of the three ladies, Nandana Sen stole the show with her tattooed vixen look and attitude but the other two weren't bad, either. Aruna Shields definitely has potential, as does Neeru Bawja (whose curvy figure and item song went over well in my section of the audience.) And, most pleasingly, all three ladies had more to do than stand around and look pretty - Prince may be the hero, but he doesn't hang around with chicks who need rescuing. If you want to ride with Prince, baby, you've got to hold your own!
And let's talk character actors. VJ Manish Anand puts in a decent sidekick performance as Mike the computer expert, although it was a bit disconcerting to hear other characters refer to him as dorky when, in fact, he is a cutie and Former model Isaiah adds a nice dash of homoerotic tension to the mix as arch-villain Sarang.
So, where does that leave you, gentle reader, is it showtime for Prince? I hope the film does well for Vivek and I thought the direction from debut director Kookie was both snappy and very solid and I'd love to see him do other action films. Still, I can't help but wish that all this potential and talent had been in the hands of a different writing team - like, a good writing team - so that I could recommend more than Vivek's leather pants in Prince. That said, for those who do enjoy a nice, campy romp down the rabbit hole of Plot Twists, Gay Butlers, and Matrix Style Action, take a group of friends, a pocketful of nips, and settle in for some hooting and hollering at Prince - which is infinitely more watchable than either Race or Blue for one reason: Vivek Oberoi.
(And there is only one man in Bollywood who can write a decent masala flick these days and his name is Vijay Krishna Acharya. Imagine if he had gotten his hands on this... what a showtime it would have been! Alas...)
Note from Filmi Girl:
I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.
If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.
xoxo Filmi Girl