Ranjit Tiwari has moved from Patiala House to the desert sands with RAW. More importantly, he has moved from John Abrahm to Akshay Kumar. Given the filmmaker, this is another raw (spelt with all Caps if you like!) thriller. Before saying more, one wonders why are filmmakers are expending raw stock to establish that Pakistan is our political enemy?
Ankush (Akshay Kumar) is a RAW agent with a mission and a baggage. Mamma (Dolly Ahluwalia) was done in by a set of hijackers in a hijack operation that ended in the government conceding to the demands of the hijackers. Political lines are blurred except that the present narrative is clearly during the Mrs Gandhi times. To those who get their dates right and the historic perspective in place, it could point out to the times when the negotiation took place.
Terrorists hijack an Air India plane with 210 passengers. While at one level it is the life of the passengers, the PM sees it as an issue of national pride, her colleagues as a clue for the impending elections. RAW is no nonsense as ever. Headed by Rao, their Chief (Denzil Smith), the group has its verticals including the immediate Boss Satook (Adil Hussain). It is ‘Operation Bell Bottom’ when they have an overt operation in Dubai. The hijacked flight first goes to Amritsar, then Lahore. Only this time the Pak government is kept away from negotiations and the flight then moves to Dubai.
A tale of this kind relies heavily on the stunts, the script and the editing. Given the multiple pushes and pulls of our cinematic templates, the script takes the known road of potholes. So, we have at one level Aseem Arora and Parveez Sheikh to blame. However, Chandan Arora (editing) comes into the film late. He needlessly indulges the mother love angle to give the focus a context. Completely avoidable.
Can we do away with songs in such a context? After all, we live in a changed India. It is enough to have the ‘hero’ execute the heroics and Pak bashing will win the day. Why Maa ka pyaar even if it is a boisterous Punjabi super imposition over the weeping Nirupa Roy module!
This movie obviously is overtly dependent on Akshay Kumar. The arithmethic is simple – if he succeeds, the film does. He does. The sparse audience that braves into the theatre in the post-pandemic era to see an Akshay thriller has enough to invest on and take home. He holds the film together. He has done it is Airlift, Baby, and Naam Shabana… No surprise.
Prostothics work more for Lara Dutta than her acting skills. Even that gets the wrinkles and the grace wrong. Her body language is nowhere near the character she plays except when removing her glasses. Vaani Kapoor, Huma Qureshi, et al, are just props.Tiwari does everything, including many he could have avoided. One thing he obviously has not done: watch 90 Minutes At Entebbe. This is the problem not with our cinema; it may have something to do with our polity.
However, like every so often, Akshay knows how and when to make hay. The sun is sure shining. So is the star. His fans have enough to be pleased. Also, there is a larger constituency that would lap up the narrative. So, Tiwari may be sitting on a winner at the box office irrespective of what the spoilsport critic thinks of the short-comings in the final product. This ‘Bell Bottom’ has its flares in the right fashion.