Harleen may not get giddy over dapper Dev but she wants… something. Adventure. Travel to exotic places. Romance. An advertisement for truluvv.com--featuring couples frolicking in far away lands--finally spurs her into action and, with much trepidation, she clicks “accept” on a blind date with a dude named “Vicky.”
That one click on an Internet dating site changes the course of her entire life.
While Harleen is waiting for Vicky at the restaurant, in swoops one dashing gentleman who looks exactly like Hrithik Roshan. He gazes into her eyes, tells her she’s beautiful, does a dance for her, and feeds her lines about “living for today.” Of course she falls for him immediately. What girl wouldn’t?
Complications arise when Hrithik (“Rajveer”) turns out to be a thief or spy or secret agent or… something that has the police, ISS, and a gang of terrorists all chasing after him. And, wouldn’t you know it, Harleen’s life is in danger because they spotted her with him so she just has to come along for the adventure of a lifetime, a wild ride from her little town of Shimla to tropical islands to glamorous Prague to the sands of Dubai.
Like It Happened One Night (or, if you prefer, Chori Chori), Bang Bang isn’t about the destination but the journey, specifically, Harleen’s journey. While living out the heroine fantasy that so many of us have while watching these hero-driven masala films, what Harleen is really doing is diving headfirst into the world. She is the one who decides to go with “Rajveer;” she is the one who kisses him first; she is the one who figures out his past; and she is the one who, in the end, rescues them both. Bang Bang is Harleen’s story, Harleen’s fantasy.
Hrithik, as “Rajveer,” is the embodiment of that female fantasy and, wow, does he embody it. Hrithik’s strength as a hero, since at least Koi... Mil Gaya, has been his ability to fuse his superhuman physicality with a simple emotional core. Hrithik is not a clever actor nor a quick actor. His talent isn’t in delivering dialogues but in using his body and, as much as a non-Rakesh Roshan production possibly could, Bang Bang works with his natural ability to fluidly, gratuitously take off his shirt as the camera lingers longingly. But “Rajveer” is more than a set of abs and Hrithik deftly parses the difference between his glib flim-flamming of Harleen in the beginning and his actual flirting later. We can see in his eyes when he’s lying and when he’s annoyed and when he’s just happy making shish kabobs in a beach hut. He’s the perfect fantasy of the invulnerable hero who’s actually vulnerable, needing to be saved by the heroine.
Hrithik is as good as he always is but Katrina, as Harleen, puts in her best performance to date. Despite what all the reviews seem to be saying, Katrina wasn’t just “arm candy.” She had the responsibility of most of the narrative and emotional progress of the film and did it all with aplomb. What actually impressed me the most was how Katrina was able to convey how Harleen--despite looking like gorgeous Katrina Kaif--had managed to isolate herself, that Harleen’s fears of ending up alone were believable. There was a reserve, a remove, a distance between Harleen and other people that gradually crumbles. I also appreciated that Katrina always had Harleen appear capable and in control of herself, she never gets shrill or flustered or gooey. Harleen is a level-headed, intelligent girl and it was lovely to watch Katrina portray her opening up and taking her first steps into the wide, wide world.
And a good sign in any masala is a cast packed full of quality character actors and Bang Bang does not disappoint on this end. I may have cheered out loud in the theater when my favorites Jimmy Shergill, Javed Jaffery, and Danny Denzongpa made their (all too brief) appearances. Jimmy managed to make me cry in his under five minutes of screen time and Javed Jaffery was… well, I still don't know why he's not a MEGA SUPERSTAR.
The one major weak point in Bang Bang was the direction in the action scenes. To put it frankly, the action sequences ranged from dire (an early rooftop sequence in Shimla) to mediocre. The editing was choppy, the framing sloppy, and despite what looked like fantastic effort on Hrithik’s part, all of the action sequences were either confused looking or anticlimatic. Director Siddharth Anand clearly has no feel for action and I’d strongly recommend pairing him up with somebody who does in his next film because, action aside, what Siddharth Anand really delivered well were the human moments. I’ve only seen two of his previous films--Bachna Ae Haseeno and Salaam Namaste--but what I liked about those two films is what I liked about Bang Bang, a subtle sense of humor, an ability to find pathos in ridiculous situations, and a focus on women as people.
And I do mean a subtle sense of humor, helped along with a crackling script by Sujoy Ghosh and Suresh Nair and dialogues by Abbas Tyrewalla. I would bet some amount of money that a version of the Bang Bang script exists with an overt reference the infamous crocodile sequence from Yaadein rather than just the covert reference, as well as to Dhoom 2, Krrish, and what have you. Sujoy, Suresh, and Abbas pack as much fun as they can into a script that had to be written to please the soul-killing, corporate overlords of Fox Star Studios. There are all sorts of wonderful moments hidden inside for us to savor. One of my favorites scenes in the entire film has “Rajveer” destroying an entire restaurant while Harleen is in the bathroom and as she’s confusedly surveying the destruction, the owner comes up and hands her the bill!! That type of detail, a scene meant to do nothing but delight us with its sudden departure from the filmi norm, is part of what made Bang Bang so much fun.
The one sour note in the scripting--and dialogues--is in a product placement scene at Pizza Hut that seemed shoe-horned into the story without much thought. It’s only in that one scene where Rajveer overplays the Tom Cruise glib and verbal bickering between the hero and heroine feels off-putting and forced, as if it was written with a different hero in mind. Saif Ali Khan can bicker-flirt; Ranveer Singh can bicker-flirt; but verbal bickering neither Katrina’s nor Hrithik’s strong suit.
Finally, the music. The background scoring was really charming in kind of a retro way. I thought the Salim–Sulaiman score added a good texture. As for the picturizations, I had been unimpressed with the song promos but, in context, I felt all the songs worked really well and, after hearing it properly, “Bang Bang” has been on constant repeat on my iPod. The stand out, as far as picturizations go, was the gorgeous “Meherbaan”. It’s not clear from the video but the song is actually Harleen’s fantasy. Context is king for picturizations and knowing that it’s Harleen who imagines herself being desired and serenaded and swanning around Greece in pretty clothes adds an important layer of meaning to the song.
Bang Bang isn’t a masterpiece of cinema but it is a fun film and much cleverer than other reviewers are giving it credit for. If you enjoy masala and like Hrithik and/or Katrina, I would definitely recommend giving it a shot… or two. Bang.