Big, dumb and pretty good fun once the flat first hour is over, Bollywood masala “Rowdy Rathore” makes the grade on the strength of Akshay Kumar’s charismatic dual perfs as a supercop killed on duty and a lookalike thief who takes his place. Subtlety and cohesive plotting are not the strong suits of this no-brainer by choreographer-turned helmer Prabhu Deva (“Wanted”), but auds seeking high-octane fight scenes, ripe melodrama and peppy song-and-dance numbers will get most of what they came for. Released June 1 and still going strong, “Rowdy” appears certain to feature among the year’s top 10 local hits.
By Richard Kuipers
The third remake of 2006 Telugu-language hit “Vikramarkudu” (Tamil and Kannada versions followed, and next up is a Bengali-lingo adaptation), “Rowdy” reps a strong return to action roles for box office draw Kumar following a seven-year hiatus.
Sporting a 1970s he-man mustache, the Hindi hunk appears first as Shiva, a petty crook working the streets of Mumbai in slapstick fashion with goofy sidekick 2G (Paresh Ganatra). Irresistible to everyone, including a femme cop who can’t bring herself to arrest him, Shiva falls for Paro (Sonakshi Sinha, delightful), a beauty from the ancient city of Patna. He vows to change his ways when they marry, but his plans are derailed by the sudden appearance of Chinki, an adorable moppet who runs into his arms and calls him Daddy.
The chemistry between Kumar and Sinha is appealing and a couple of snappy songs liven things up, but it takes a labored 60 minutes to finally establish Shiva as a dead ringer for fearless rural cop Vikram Rathore, and Chinki as Rathore’s daughter. Restless auds are finally given something to cheer about 10 minutes before intermission when Shiva and Rathore meet in a spectacular smackdown with goons working for Baapji (Nasser), a drooling mob boss with a death warrant out on Rathore.
Second half is a much livelier affair. Though circumstances conspire to deny auds the chance to see both Rathore and Shiva in the same frame for all but the briefest of moments, the pic includes highly satisfying flashbacks to Rathore arriving in the small town run by Baapji and wiping out criminal scum. Kumar displays nifty martial-arts moves, with pleasing assists from Yashpal Sharma as an honest but helpless local cop and Gurdeep Kohli as a loyal female officer.
As far as Shiva’s sudden ability to assume Rathore’s identity and finish his butt-kicking mission is concerned, auds simply have to take it on trust that winning back Paro and protecting Chinki are all the motivational spinach he requires.
Ultra-glossy lensing by Santosh Thundiyil perfectly suits the tone of heightened realism. Standout choreography of the fourth musical number, “Chamak challo chel chabeli,” deserves special praise. All other tech credits are top-class.