Film Review: Baadshaho
In a strange case of supply surfacing where no demand existed, Hindi film audiences have been subjected to two Sanjay Gandhi impersonations in as many months. The first was in Indu Sarkar, a serious, if shrieky, look at the injustices perpetrated during the Emergency. And now we get another in Baadshaho—but it’s only window dressing, something to underline the period setting. Milan Luthria’s film makes a few weak bleats about the 1975 shutdown, but mostly just goes about trying to be the pulpiest, silliest bit of masala action cinema it can possibly be.
“Woh army hai, aur hum haraami (they’re the army, and we’re bastards),” drawls Bhawani (Ajay Devgn), de-facto leader of the group he’s assembled to steal Rajasthani princess Gitanjali’s gold, which is being seized by the government. He’s doing this for Gitanjali (Ileana D’Cruz)herself; he was once her bodyguard, and in love with her. Together with Dalia (Emraan Hashmi), Sanjana (Esha Gupta) and safecracker Tikla (Sanjay Mishra), he plans to intercept the army truck ferrying the gold across the desert to Delhi. Standing in his way is Seher Singh (Vidyut Jamwal), the requisitely tough army man in charge of the delivery.
Luthria and screenwriter Rajat Arora have collaborated on period pulp before, entertainingly in 2010’s Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, and with less success in its 2013 sequel. In Baadshaho, the period is muted—a tweed coat here, a Free Love t-shirt there—and the pulp emphasized, from D’Cruz’s femme fatale to the hardboiled, semi-ridiculous dialogue (“Yeh jo samay hai, yeh sabki leta hai, samay samay par”—this thing called time, it screws everyone over when the times comes). As befits a heist film, the narrative is appropriately twisty—in fact, there are so many double crosses to sort out that the film gives up trying to resolve them, opting instead for a confusing, sand-streaked climactic shootout.
Baadshaho may not be a smart film, but it’s a reasonably savvy daft one, inventive enough to revisit a key event from multiple perspectives and silly enough to have Mishra pick a safe in horse blinkers. You don’t go in expecting much of a film that promises Sunny Leone bathing in a barrel. You don’t receive much either, but you’re grateful for the scraps.