“Besharam” means shameless, and Bollywood helmer Abhinav Kashyap never stops trumpeting that concept for a moment. “More of the same” seems to be his mantra for this romantic comedy — more frenetically unmemorable musical numbers, more mugging, strutting and crass bits of business. Kashyap relies completely on star Ranbir Kapoor to put over this relentless reiteration of cliches and, admittedly, the actor invests his aggressively tasteless, crotch-grabbing antics with enough energy and humor to make it palatable, but only just. Hugely anticipated, “Besharam” appears too ho-hum to maintain the inflated box office of its worldwide Oct. 2 bow on 4,300 screens worldwide.
Babli (Kapoor) fixes cars by day and steals them at night, funneling his ill-gotten gains back into the orphanage where he grew up alongside sidekick T-2 (Amitosh Nagpal). Catching sight of Tara (Pallavi Sharda), he instantly tumbles head over heels and sets out to woo the haughty, upwardly mobile beauty. His uncouth if sincere overtures meet with scorn and derision, a pattern recycled with little variation in song, dance and pantomime until he risks his life to steal back the car he unwittingly stole from her, whereupon she follows him with starry-eyed adoration for several scenes before declaring her surrender.
The leads’ constant love-squabbling is echoed in a buffoonish subplot involving an older, childless cop couple (vet thesps Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, Ranbir’s real-life parents — a fact coyly referenced to death). Meanwhile, Babli has contracted to steal cars for a major-league villain (Javed Jaffrey), whose bona fides are established in the first scene when he cold-bloodedly wipes out an entire convoy of cops. Babli’s romantic aspirations place him on a collision course with his erstwhile boss, eventually involving virtually everyone in the film in a prolonged shootout finale (with kickboxing, shoot-out).
After the subtlety of his perf in “Barfi,” Kapoor’s blatant turn here certainly establishes his versatility and ability to handle even the most thankless material, if little else. Indeed, all the thesps do their damnedest, but Kashyap’s script almost perversely refuses to introduce any character gradations or to even slightly vary the actors’ routines.
Production values and visual effects seem shoddier than usual for a Bollywood blockbuster, and the pic’s broad, tongue-in-cheek ethos undercuts the physical impact of the action and the gags. Music ranges from tedious to subpar.