Lokesh Kanagaraj’s “Kaithi” is one of the best films of the past decade. It had a pretty simple premise: one-half of the protagonists had to get from point A to point B, and the other half of the protagonists had to hold the fort. It had truckloads of action and interesting twists and turns. But at its heart, it was about a father (Dilli) meeting his daughter (Amudha) for the first time. Add to that the incredible performances from Karthi, Narain, Arjun Das, George Maryan, Dheena, and Baby Monica, and “Kaithi” ended up being more than your run-of-the-mill high-octane action film. In fact, it became such a big commercial and critical success that it spawned a sequel called “Vikram” and a franchise nicknamed the Lokesh Cinematic Universe. Now, Bollywood loves to remake Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam films because they are under the impression that remaking great films is going to lead to greater box office numbers. In that process, they forget to make a great film. “Bholaa” is only the latest example of this never-ending trend.
Directed by Ajay Devgn, “Bholaa” tells the story of the titular character, played by Devgn, who is out on parole and on his way to meet his daughter, Jyothi (Hirva Trivedi). He is arrested for his appearance by a policeman and taken to IG Jayant Malik’s (Kiran Kumar’s) farewell party before being locked up. IPS Agent Diana Joseph (Tabu), who has executed a massive drug bust, has reached there as well after storing all the drugs in the basement of a police station. When all the police officials in that party are rendered unconscious by a turncoat amongst the ranks who is working for Ashwathama (Deepak Dobriyal), Diana asks Bholaa to help. He doesn’t want to because he thinks his parole is going to be canceled, and he won’t get to meet Jyothi. After some cheap emotional manipulation, he agrees to go on a treacherous journey with Diana and a local, Kadchi (Amir Khan). Meanwhile, Inspector Angad Yadav (Sanjav Mishra) and four youngsters find themselves in a pickle as they’ve to defend the aforementioned police station while Ashwathama and his goons attack it to retrieve the drugs stored there and free his imprisoned brother, Nithari (Vineet Kumar).
“Bholaa” won’t get any points for the story because it’s a remake, and even Ajay Devgn and his team probably know that. In terms of originality, all they had to do was update the aesthetic to its Uttar Pradesh setting and give us characters that were synonymous with the term “memorable.” The sleazy songs and a few expletives here and there give you an idea that, yes, the movie is taking place somewhere in Uttar Pradesh. But, with the exception of Bholaa, none of the characters manage to stick with you. And there’s a fairly simple reason for that. The writers don’t care about all the characters in the narrative. Their only task is to build up Bholaa and then leave it to Ajay Devgn to give him some kind of payoff through the action sequences. The first one or two times are tolerable. However, after the film pauses for the fifth time to explain how awesome Bholaa is, it gets tiring. I understand if Devgn forced the writers to do this so as to appear as this larger-than-life superhero. Did he forget to tell them to come up with good dialogues, though? Because nobody in this film talks like a human being. They either dump a bunch of exposition, scream stuff, or spew nonsensical proverbs. Well, even if they had written masterful dialogues, I don’t think it would’ve been audible due to the obnoxious background score.
That’s right. There isn’t a moment of silence in Ajay Devgn’s “Bholaa.” It’s all noise. Apparently, his direction to Ravi Basrur was to add some kind of music into every millisecond of this excruciatingly long film. So, a mild headache starts within the first 20 minutes because your eardrums are constantly bombarded with loud sounds. That feeling of pain is only amplified by the visuals. Credit where credit is due; the movie is undoubtedly well-color-graded. But that’s the bare minimum you should expect from a big-budget film. However, given the state of filmmaking, especially in Bollywood, it’s a big deal if those properly color-graded frames come together to tell the story competently. And for some reason, Devgn and cinematographer Aseem Bajaj decide to use only close-ups and extreme close-ups in every other scene, and then allow editor Dharmendra Sharma to chop it up into bits. Therefore, if you spot a wide shot, then cherish it because you never know how long it’s going to take for the next one to arrive. As for the action, there’s a lot. Although there’s no such thing as “too much action,” when there are a lot of badly choreographed, horribly edited, and cartoonishly absurd fights, chases, and kills, it’s nauseating. And when you’re watching it all in pristinely horrific 3D, you are risking damaging your brain. Also, and this needs to be said, this movie deserves an R-rating for its grotesque and distasteful violence. It’s weird how the usually uptight CBFC has given it a U/A rating.
Deepak Dobriyal is the worst part of “Bholaa.” In an attempt to be really different from Arjun Das’ performance, the man has gone into Jared Leto Joker territory. He clearly wants to look like a threat, but all he does is, be annoying. The second-worst part of the film is, of course, Ajay Devgn. He thinks he is being stoic and intense with all the shots of his eyes and his slow-motion walks. Well, somebody should’ve told him that it’s not translating to the screen all that well and that he should put some soul into his performance. But he’s so busy portraying himself as this infallible hunk of mass that he forgets that a hero who struggles to win is more relatable than a hero who always wins. Devgn is actually so full of himself that he forgets to properly use great actors like Tabu, Gajraj Rao, Vineet Kumar, Sanjay Mishra, and Makrand Deshpande. Their characters could’ve been played by anyone, and that’s shameful because Tabu, Rao, Kumar, Mishra, and Deshpande should never feel replaceable. If they do, it’s the director’s and the writers’ fault. Amala Paul is in this film, and she doesn’t have a single line. Can you believe that? The rest of the cast is there to do their job. They don’t stand out. They aren’t irritating. And in a film like this, to be honest, that seems like a blessing.
“Bholaa” definitely earns its “remake” tag because some of the backstories and the action set pieces are quite different from “Kaithi.” But at what cost? The additional lore just increases the running time, and the action choreography and editing are so bad that it feels like an assault on the senses. Hence, I have a small petition for the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam film industries: please stop giving away the rights to your movies to Bollywood. I understand that you all are probably getting paid a lot. However, you are already earning that from your original films. If you make sequels to those hugely successful movies, you’re probably going to earn more. So, please, stop giving away your IPs to Bollywood. And if you really have to, then at least find a director who has the skill necessary to pull off your stories. As for Ajay Devgn, my only advice to him is to please watch more action movies. The chasm between what you think you want to do and what’s actually happening in other national and international film industries is massive. It’ll take a lot of work to bridge that gap, so you better get started.