Tigmanshu Dhulia’s purple patch

When we last saw ex-royal Aditya Pratap Singh, he was paralysed from the waist down and being wheeled around by his triumphant wife, who couldn’t mask her glee at avenging years of emotional and sexual neglect. In the sequel to 2011’s Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, the charismatic but arrogant Aditya isn’t letting his handicap come in the way of expanding his family and fortune.

Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster was a neat triangle that played out at the intersection of desire, money and power, but Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns is a multi-angular contest with so many contenders for the throne, it’s a minor miracle that the story stays on course.

We are back in the fictional former kingdom Devgarh, where the expression of love is akin to a chessboard move and the pursuit of power is a round-the-clock affair. The 145-minute sequel is far more densely plotted than the first movie and has many more characters, but there’s no change in the theme—the struggle of feudals possessed by an immense sense of entitlement to remain relevant in a democracy.

Aditya (Jimmy Shergill) feels out of place in a world in which power belongs to the same people over whom his family lorded for generations. He makes his money clandestinely by getting his loyal former subjects to rob wayfarers and by openly grabbing lucrative tenders. His alcoholic wife Madhavi (Mahie Gill) has taken to downing drinks in the shower and throwing herself at every available man, while his own dormant loins are awakened by the prospect of remarrying Ranjana (Soha Ali Khan), whose heart actually throbs for minor ex-royal Indarjit Singh (Irrfan Khan). Indarjit has been waiting to avenge an ancient slight by Aditya’s family, and he throws himself into the mess by consorting with Madhavi.

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