By Subhash K. Jha
Film: “Sardaar Gabbar Singh”; Language: Hindi; Director: K.S. Ravindra; Cast: Pawan Kalyan, Kajal Aggarwal and Sharad Kelkar; Rating: *
For those hoping to see Telugu superstar Pawan Kalyan make a safe launch in Hindi with this film about a rogue policeman who takes on a feudal brat in an imaginary princely state, here is the sobering verdict: the film and its luminary hero are a washout from the first frame to the last.
Mr. Kalyan, known to exercise vast clout in Andhra Pradesh, should have consulted the astrologers and trade pundits before making the tricky transition. What works in Telugu doesn’t necessarily work in Bollywood.
“Sardaar Gabbar Singh” with its moth-balled ‘good versus evil’ rendering of the masala-morality saga, is like an over-spiced sambhar dish which the diehard foodies will take out of habit and the uninitiated will skip.
It is like something the cat dragged in. It is fetid and disposable, unbearably redundant and entertaining perhaps only to the leading man. Yes, Mr. Kalyan seems to have a lot of fun. He takes on the baddies as though they were bad jokes written at the back of a truck. The fights find the goons and sidekicks dropping to the ground like bird poop from the skies.
The film relies almost entirely on popular gimmicks from the 1980s’ formula films. Even the sets and locations reek of subversive nostalgia, more remarkable for what they represent rather than resonate. Huge chunks of footage is devoted to building up Mr. Kalyan’s Gabbar in messianic colours. He prances around in a loose-fitting khaki uniform, shirt unbuttoned, belt loosened… This is a cop on a rampage with his loose morals matching the way he wears his uniform.
Sorry. But Salman Khan did it first in “Dabangg”. And with a lot more swagger and self-confidence. Pawan Kalyan’s Gabbar act is more buffoonery than heroism. His persona is so pronounced in its devotion to connecting with the audience that the larger-than-life hero often ends up looking a cartoon-strip version of a real-life hero, more conned against than conned.
Sharad Kelkar playing the fiendish feudal lord is able to furnish some grandiosity to his arrogant character. It’s hard to take the hero seriously when the villain looks more imposing and dignified. By the time Kajal Aggarwal enters the story to play the petite bone of contention between cop-hero and feudal landlord, we are nowhere close to being interested in what the characters do with their lives.
For all we know, they can go fly a kite. Pawan Kalyan doesn’t need Makar Sakranti to do that.