Perhaps setting a record for filming the same story in three different languages in just 18 months, Indian helmer Siddique delivers a middling melange of action, romance, music and slapstick in his hotly anticipated Hindi version of “Bodyguard.” This poorly scripted yarn about a hotshot bodyguard protecting a rich man’s daughter is carried solely on the buff shoulders of macho megastar Salman Khan, whose appeal helped the pic to a smashing estimated $4 million-plus domestic gross on its Aug. 31 opening. Simultaneous international release is sure to attract crowds with subcontinental backgrounds, but there’s not much here to entice newcomers.
After helming Malayalam, Tamil and now Hindi versions of “Bodyguard,” Siddique plans to exploit the property further with an upcoming Telugu version titled “Ganja,” and while he may be flogging a very tired horse creatively, based on opening figures, “Bodyguard” 2011 could become this year’s Indian box office champion.
First reel is easily the best. Intro’d rock star-style with a lavish production number showing plenty of rippling muscles, Lovely Singh (Khan) rescues a container load of girls from Mumbai sex traffickers. Recommended by security company boss Bindra (Sharat Saxena) as “the only one who can make his opposition pee in their pants,” Singh is hired by Jaisinghpur millionaire Sartaj Rana (Raj Babbar) to protect his only daughter, Divya (Kareena Kapoor), a student attending business college in faraway Pune.
There’s some early amusement with robot-like Singh cramping Divya’s style on campus by following her absolutely everywhere. But chuckles soon turn to groans when Singh is joined by Tsunami (producer and helmer-turned thesp Rajat Rawail), a hefty employee of Rana whose antics will appeal to fans of only the very broadest slapstick and fat-man jokes.
Story tumbles badly post-intermission. Khan and Kapoor have the right chemistry, but little is achieved by Divya’s unconvincing attempt to distract her minder by adopting a fake persona named Chhaya who rings Singh constantly, claiming to be his secret admirer. Naturally it’s only a smokescreen for Divya’s true feelings but by the time the plot grinds through melodramatic developments involving Divya’s best friend, Maya (Hazel Keech), much of the spark has disappeared from the central romance.
Story also lacks a credible threat. “Guest stars” Aditya Pancholi and Mahesh Manjrekar play shady types floating around Divya’s vicinity, but their activities and objectives are never clearly defined.
Still, it’s Khan’s show, and he delivers whether engaged in eye-catching, CGI-assisted fight scenes or strutting around like he owns the place during zippy musical interludes. Kapoor is appealing in a thinly written role.
Sejal Shah’s crisp widescreen lensing and Angelica Monica Bhowmick’s art direction create much to please the eye. Instrumental score clobbers auds with instruction on what emotions they ought to be feeling. The rest of tech work is up to snuff.