‘Bholaa’ Vs. ‘Kaithi’: Is Ajay Devgn’s Film Better Than The Lokesh Kanagaraj Classic?


“Bholaa” is an official remake of “Kaithi.” But, for better or for worse, it’s not a frame-by-frame copy of the original. They share the overarching narrative of an ex-convict rescuing a bunch of police officers from imminent death and a newly-appointed but aging policeman protecting a police station from gangsters. However, there are some minor and some major changes that will determine the fate of “Bholaa.” So, without further ado, let’s talk about the two films before answering whether “Bholaa” is better than “Kaithi” or if “Kaithi” still reigns supreme.

Major Spoilers Ahead

Dilli versus Bholaa

The biggest difference between Dilli and Bholaa stems from their backstories. Dilli described himself as a drunkard and a rowdy whose life was fixed by Viji. The couple lived on the platform of a train station, and they were content. But one day, a bunch of criminals tried to abduct a pregnant Viji, and Dilli killed them all. That was why he was taken away to jail for ten years. When he learned about Amudha, he probably altered his attitude so that he could get parole and visit her. There were vague insinuations about Dilli’s gangster-esque behavior, but it wasn’t explained in detail. However, Devgn decided to flesh that out and gave Bholaa a full-on flashback where he was a gangster, and he fell in love with Amala Paul’s character (who didn’t have a single line of dialogue). However, Abhishek Bachchan’s metal-boned character swooped in to probably kidnap Bholaa’s wife and then sent him to jail. While Dilli was a nobody, which was why his conversation with everyone made so much sense, Nithari and Subramaniam recognized Bholaa, thereby reducing the relatability of the character. In addition to all of this, Karthi’s performance had so many levels, and Ajay Devgn did nothing in an attempt to be stoic and serious.

Inspector Bejoy versus I.P.S. Diana Joseph

Apart from the very obvious gender difference, Bejoy and Diana’s character arcs were quite similar. Narain got better dialogues to work with, while Tabu got next to nothing. But the thing that irked me the most was that Bejoy had a daughter who was still alive, and Diana got a dead one. The scene where Dilli gave Bejoy the broken earrings as payment for arranging Amudha’s educational requirements shows Dilli’s humility in the face of adversity. However, there wasn’t any such scene for Diana. Bholaa had a pair of anklets for Jyothi, and at the end of the movie, he gave them to her as if delivering the anklets was the entire point of the movie. I guess since Devgn and his writing team made Bholaa a gangster, he didn’t require Diana’s help, which sounds stupid. And the “dead baby in the womb” was straight-up distasteful and cruel. My advice to the likes of Devgn is that if you can’t write an empowering role, then don’t gender-swap characters in your remakes.

Anbu versus Ashwathama

Talk about a massive downgrade, and it all comes down to the performance because there isn’t a lot of change in their backstories or character arcs. Arjun Das didn’t need a sleazy item number to establish how dangerous he was. He just did it with his acting skills. Meanwhile, Deepak Dobriyal spent the entirety of the movie’s 144-minute running time being annoying. You can say that that was the direction that Dobriyal got, and since Dobriyal is a talented actor, there’s no way he botched it up on purpose. Well, either way, Arjun Das was great, and Deepak was irritating.

Adaikalam versus Nithari

Harish Uthaman’s take on Adaikalam was so straightforward, yet he came off as a menacing presence. Vineet Kumar failed to achieve even a fraction of that, despite having so many prosthetics and makeup on his face. There were times that I couldn’t even understand what Kumar was saying, partly because of the background score and partly because of his incoherent screeching. The big change here was that Adaikalam wasn’t connected to Dilli in any way, while Bholaa was apparently the killer of Nithari and Ashwathama’s father, which is why Nithari recognized Bholaa as soon as he saw him.

Kamatchi versus Kadchi

Due to the writing and Dheena’s performance, Kamatchi genuinely felt like the audience surrogate in “Kaithi.” He always said what we wanted to say and always reacted in a way that we would’ve reacted in that situation. Kadchi, on the other hand, was simply the comic relief. He was there to crack jokes and be the punching bag for “Bholaa.” If you took Kadchi out of the film, it wouldn’t have made a difference. But can you imagine “Kaithi” without Dheena’s Kamatchi? No, absolutely not.

Napoleon versus Angad Yadav

There’s no doubt about the fact that both George Marian and Sanjay Mishra are two of the best actors working in the entertainment industry at the moment. And while there wasn’t any difference in the quality of their performances in “Kaithi” and “Bholaa,” respectively, the writing elevated Napoleon to the status of Sgt. Al Powell from “Die Hard,” and Angad Yadav ended up being just some inspector who hadn’t signed up for such a high-stakes mission. Napoleon and Angad do feel like the same character. However, I still remember Maryan’s performance after all these years, and I have forgotten that Mishra was even in this movie.

Stephen Raj versus Devraj Subramaniam

It’s one thing to remake a Tamil film, and it’s a whole other thing to have a Tamil stereotype with a horrible accent. What was Ajay Devgn thinking? What was Gajraj Rao thinking? What was up with that horrible bald cap? Why didn’t anybody tell them that this was a bad idea and they should play Devraj as someone from Uttar Pradesh because the entire movie was set in Uttar Pradesh? What was the reason behind making Rao’s character such a cliché? I don’t have the answers to these questions, and I don’t think I want to know the answers even if Devgn and Rao have them. Despite being a Malayali, Hareesh Peradi played Stephen Raj in a straightforward fashion in the Tamil film. His character was pivotal to the story, but he wasn’t meant to stand out that much. And he did his job perfectly. Character arc-wise, the big change in the two characters was that Stephen was arrested by the police for plotting against the police, while Devraj shot himself to death because he knew who Bholaa was and he was afraid of the consequences of his freedom from jail.

Amudha versus Jyothi

I don’t want to rag on child actors and say that one was better than the other because of their performances. Both Monica and Hirva Trivedi have a long way to go, and they have a lot to learn if they want to pursue a career in acting. I do want to talk about the writing, though, because Amudha waiting for her father’s arrival felt so much more palpable than Jyothi’s. Also, Amudha comforting Dilli after such a horrendous ordeal totally attacked the tear ducts, while Jyothi’s first interaction with Bholaa wasn’t as heartfelt.

The Storytelling

Let’s start with the thing that annoyed me the most: the costume. Dilli had only one costume because it was probably the dress he wore while entering the jail 10 years ago—thereby being the only thing that tied him to his past life—and his determination to wear it after all the damage showed how he was holding onto something that was synonymous with his identity. Bholaa’s look was heavily marketed, and it had a touch of Uttar Pradesh to it. But before the intermission, he stole his enemy’s shirt because the sleeve of his shirt got damaged. Bholaa even got rid of the “gamcha.” And then, at the end of the movie, the original costume reappeared. What did that say about the character and the movie? That Ajay Devgn and his team didn’t put too much thought into telling Bholaa’s story through the costume.

Dilli’s religion was an integral part of his character’s journey. But he never showed it off, and it never became a distraction. Ajay Devgn practically made Bholaa’s religion his one and only character trait, going so far as to stage an entire fight sequence around Lord Shiva, where he came off as an infallible human being. Dilli struggling to keep up during a fight and wincing after pouring alcohol over his injuries didn’t hurt his machismo. It made him human and, therefore, relatable. Bholaa felt like a cartoonish superhero who took himself so seriously that he didn’t have the time to show his humane side to the audience. He even needed a hype man in the form of Makrand Deshpande’s prisoner dude, who couldn’t shut up about him. Did the prisoner fall in love with Bholaa during their time together in prison? That’s the only way to make sense of that awful narration.

Now, I’ve complained a lot about the exposition in “Bholaa.” But the only time Devgn decided to show instead of tell, I hated it as well. Because Bholaa’s backstory was just an excuse for T-Series to sell a song. Dilli talking about his past in a long take, where the camera simply zoomed into Karthi’s face, was way better than that. The scene from “Kaithi” continues to be the only rare case of “tell, don’t show” working way better than a live-action recreation, while the one in “Bholaa” shows the underlying misogyny amongst the storytellers as they brought one of the biggest stars of the Tamil, Malayalam, and Telugu film industries, Amala Paul, and then didn’t give her a single line of dialogue! All in all, Lokesh Kanagaraj and Pon Parthiban clearly cared about the little character moments, while Ajay Devgn was way too obsessed with himself.

The Action Sequences 

The first action sequence of “Kaithi” took place in a violent bamboo forest, followed by an amazing chase involving Dilli’s truck, a bus full of goons armed with petrol bombs, and a Tata Scorpio. Yes, the scene was so memorable that I even remember the brand of the car. “Bholaa” tried to up the ante by bringing in a bunch of acrobatic bikers, with Bholaa doing all kinds of stunts on those bikes and pipes. It was really bad. The second action sequence in “Kaithi” had Dilli and the rest getting stuck between two gangs trying to collect the bounty. It concluded with Dilli showcasing his fighting skills. For the same moment, “Bholaa” used greased-up, semi-nude gym-bros whose tractors did wheelies and a bunch of regular-sized dudes with a leopard as a pet. Do I need to say anything else? “Kaithi” set its penultimate fight sequence at a sand mining complex, with that striking image of Dilli using his handcuffs to punch through a pile of goons. “Bholaa” loaded its penultimate fight with Lord Shiva imagery and tons of impalements with a trident. However, the problem wasn’t the kind of change. The issue was the overall presentation. “Kaithi” was undoubtedly over the top, but the stakes and the impact always felt realistic. “Bholaa” seemed cartoonish and chock full of weird CGI moments that came in the way of total immersion.

The Cinematography and Editing

Sathyan Sooryan and Aseem Bajaj are probably amazing in their own rights. It boils down to what their directors asked of them. Lokesh Kanagaraj clearly wanted his frames to be clean and comprehensible, with a good mix of wide shots, overhead shots, kinetic shots, static shots, and more. Ajay Devgn wanted his frames to be strictly in close-ups and extreme close-ups to give his viewers a nauseating viewing experience. In addition to that, Lokesh definitely wanted his movie to have proper momentum, and he allowed every scene to breathe properly. Devgn, though, wanted his movie to feel like a compilation of trailers, with each “scene” serving as a teaser for the next one. Hence, after a moment, “Bholaa” started to seem exhausting, while you could watch “Kaithi” multiple times in a single day and not experience even an ounce of boredom or tiredness.

The Music 

Ravi Basrur definitely gained mainstream popularity after the immense success of “K.G.F. Chapter 1,” and he has apparently scored six movies in 2023 alone. So, there’s no doubt that he’s a talented individual. The problem in “Bholaa” was that his score was mixed so horribly with the dialogue-heavy scenes that you practically couldn’t hear the characters talking. And if you can’t hear the characters talk, how are you supposed to invest in the story? Sam C. S. had a far simpler approach, as he used a low-key theme music for the film as well as for the characters. In addition to that, the sound mixing was pretty much perfect, thereby allowing you to appreciate the background music and the conversational scenes.

The Ending of ‘Bholaa’ and ‘Kaithi’

We know that “Kaithi” ended up becoming a part of the Lokesh cinematic universe. But until “Vikram” was released, it was seen as a standalone movie. Not just any standalone film, but a solid standalone film that concluded on the note that a father and daughter were finally going to start a new and peaceful chapter of their lives after ten years of constant hardship. “Bholaa” tried to emulate that ending, but Ajay Devgn became too greedy as he wanted to set up his own franchise centered around the titular character. So, the final frame of “Bholaa” wasn’t that of a father and a daughter driving off into the sunset. It was that of Abhishek Bachchan as a metal-boned character, saying something ominous about death and whatnot. This showed that Lokesh clearly prioritized the journey of his characters and wanted to give them a fitting payoff, while Devgn wanted his characters to go through the motions so that he could tease a potential sequel.

Final Thoughts: Is ‘Bholaa’ Better Than ‘Kaithi’?

It’s a resounding “no” from me. There wasn’t a single thing about “Bholaa” that was better than “Kaithi.” And I’ll tell you why. Ajay Devgn thought that the best thing about “Kaithi” was its action. In reality, the best thing about “Kaithi” were the moments when Dilli and Amudha talked about each other all throughout the film and then met for the first time in their lives. So, if Devgn really wanted to produce a remake that was as good as the original, if not better, he should’ve put all his energy into cementing the bond between Bholaa and Jyothi. The notion that they might not get to meet after all that time should’ve been on our minds for the entire runtime of the film. Instead, I was just hoping for “Bholaa” to end so that I could go and watch “Kaithi” again and bask in its brilliance. If it isn’t apparent already, please steer clear of “Bholaa” if you don’t want a headache. Give “Kaithi” a try! If it ends up being your thing, then put on “Vikram” and prepare your mind and body for Lokesh Kanagaraj’s next venture.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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