When one awaits a film as eagerly as I awaited Rowdy Rathore there is always the very real chance that one’s sky-high expectations will not be met. Fortunately for me Rowdy Rathore was everything I was expecting and more. (And MORE, you guys!) Prabhudeva’s remake of Vikramarkudu is pitch-perfect paisa vasool masala film making. I laughed; I cried; I ogled; I chair danced during the songs; and I air punched bad guys (no, really, just ask the guys sitting behind me).
Rowdy Rathore opens with the story of Shiva (Akshay Kumar), a rogue-about-town whose only goal in life is to scam as much money and gold as possible from as many people as possible - including his buddy/comic relief 2G (Paresh Ganatra). The two seem well on track to end up like those two old layabouts Ashok Kumar and Pran in Victoria No. 203 but, thankfully for Shiva, fate intervenes - fate in the form of two lovely ladies. There is love interest Paro (the luscious Sonakshi Sinha) and a mysterious little girl named Chinki, who thinks Shiva is her father.
Pre-interval introduces both us and Shiva to the girls and, in between some laughs, we get to see Shiva grow a heart and a conscience. Post-interval is the story of Shiva’s doppelganger ASP Vikram Rathore (also Akshay Kumar but with a different mouche) and his battle against the evil landlord (reliable villain Nassar) of a small village that (coincidentally) happens to be right near where Paro lives!
The plot is standard revenge-masala and I don’t think I’m giving too much away to say that plenty of rowdies get dishoomed on the way to a happy ending. If violence isn’t your thing, consider giving this one a miss. The blood, it doth flow. Also, be forewarned that the jokes are extremely corny and while there is no comedy sideplot, there is a comedian sidekick.
Now, for the rest of us who enjoy a good spot of dishoom-dishoom, here’s what takes Rowdy Rathore up a level from your Singham’s and Dabangg’s.
First of all, Akshay Kumar is at the top of his game. He seems energized and really having a blast playing both the uptight ASP Vikram Rathore and the more khiladi-esqe Shiva. The two characters are only differentiated visually by mustache style but Akshay succeeds at giving each a totally different physicality. Shiva’s special talent is the chinta ta ta, which essentially means that his rhythmic theme music gets all the ladies’ hips moving. (Fact: It also works on ladies in the audience. i.e. me.) ASP Vikram Rathore’s special talent is ass-kicking and delivering crippling punch lines. Two totally different characters, two totally different Akshay’s. By the end when (minor spoiler) Shiva is impersonating ASP Vikram Rathore, the fighting and bantering styles of the two are very distinct and it’s easy to see how the irreverent Shiva could play all the bad guys for suckers.
Also, watching Akshay with that little girl was heart-meltingly sweet and brought back fond memories of him with that baby in Heyy Babyy.
Akshay has excellent chemistry with Sonakshi, who knocks it for six in her second role. I cannot wait to see her again with Akshay in Joker because these two were smoking hot together. Sonakshi’s eyes are very emotive - when they flash in anger, watch out bad guys! And when her midriff gives the slightest, tantalizing jiggle, I don’t think anybody was looking anywhere else on screen. I really, really liked this jodi.
The rest of the supporting cast was also great. Crazypants Munna, “don’t mention” minister, man-of-steel Titla, lady cop Gurdeep Kohli, Mrs. Inspector Sharma, cripple guy, “culture” auntie, the teenager selling fruit who had a scene stealing grin, all the rowdies, and (most importantly) little big-eyed Chinki, who is the rare child actor that’s cute without being cloying.
Besides the performances, the pacing was also stellar. Shiva’s character development hit early enough that we could get emotionally invested but not so early that we missed out on some major khiladi action. Having the story switch to ASP Vikram only post-interval was also a nice touch to really help avoid any masala drag.
Sajid-Wajid are on their A-game with the soundtrack and all the picturizations are a lot of fun. It helps that (as mentioned earlier) Sonakshi and Akshay have great chemistry. We’re treated to guest appearances from item girls Mumaith Khan and Maryam, along with Bebo, Vijay, and Prabhudeva himself.
And what about the big gun? Prabhudeva? Well, let me tell you something - I think Rowdy Rathore is better than Wanted. Crazy swoopy camera angles, Urumi slow motion fight scenes, lots of shooting from beneath to make everything seem HUGE on the screen - including Akshay standing on plexiglass at one point so he’s really just towering over us, great editing during the songs, fourth wall breaking sight gags, classic Southie shaky camera plus reverb on Akki’s voice when Vikram delivered one of his devastating punch lines, tracking shots of Sonakshi’s butt... Basically, Rowdy Rathore is like a putting an unconstrained Prabhudeva performance into movie form and I loved it.
But that’s not all. The extra-special icing on the cake is that Rowdy Rathore features some surprisingly feminist moments. Perhaps it’s because I spent all morning watching Satyamev Jayate before heading to the theater but I couldn’t help cheering when the (obligatory) rape victim fights back with the support of her community instead of killing herself. There’s also the presence of the lady cop who is pretty deadly with a knife. AND there’s also Paro herself who is no helpless heroine. Paro not only has a scathing verbal attack but she’s clearly just as interested in getting some with the khiladi as he is with her.
The bottom line is this: Rowdy Rathore isn’t neo-masala like Dabangg nor is it slick like Ghajini*. Rowdy Rathore is a heaping helping of Southie-tinged masses v. classes masala fun. If you like that kind of thing, you’ll like this film. If you don’t, you won’t. Rowdy Rathore does exactly what it looks like it’s going to do - rock your socks.
*Both of which I loved, BTW, so I’m not dissing either, just categorizing. I saw Ghajini twice in theaters.