At a crucial point in Kunal Deshmukh’s unabashedly pulpy and trivial caper Raja Natwarlal, the two leading con men trying to swindle a fortune literally go in two different directions, presumably because they are on the verge of being caught. Till then, the film has some entertaining scenes.

From this point on, the suspense dies entirely, and you wait for the inevitable. Deshmukh and his screenplay writer Parveez Sheikh follow the foolproof con-man comedy template to the tee. So the burden of predictability weighs the story down substantially.

You probably won’t remember this film after you have watched it. There is no inventiveness in plot, treatment and characterization—unlike the best con movies, not for a moment do any of the characters seem to be duping each other, and their wiles or avarice hold no surprises.

Deshmukh has earlier directed Jannat (2008) and Jannat 2 (2012), both with Emraan Hashmi in the lead. Raja Natwarlal could well be a “threequel", a format very much in vogue in mainstream cinema all over the world these days. As in the Jannat movies, the crime in Raja Natwarlal is half-baked and mindless.

Raja (Hashmi) and Raju (Deepak Tijori) are petty swindlers in Mumbai. Raja is in love with a bar dancer, Ziya (Humaima Malik), and is convinced the only way to win her over is to shower her with as many rupee notes as he can get, on the pink-and-purple-hued dance floor. The desperate crook gets an opportunity to hustle a few crores and convinces Raju, whom he considers his bada bhai (big brother), to go for the kill. Finally, Raja goes in search of Raju’s guru Yogi (Paresh Rawal) to get to Vardha Yadav (Kay Kay Menon), a notoriously cruel gangster with a creepy obsession for cricket.

The film’s trajectory is as familiar as some of its dialogues and predictable characters—from Mumbai streets, the camera moves to dance bars, and then to Dharamsala and pretty locations in Cape Town, South Africa, returning to Mumbai for the climax.

If you look for procedural authenticity in the con job that the second part of the film revolves around, and on which the fate of all the main characters rests, you will be in splits. Things randomly pop up and vanish to facilitate the grand heist.

Hashmi has perfected the swagger of an aspiring Mumbai bhai, which is always complemented by the look and manner of a man with dire purpose. Expect no more shades in this role. Rawal easily conveys the wiles and frustration of an ageing con man, and Malik is ornamentally convincing as the moll who is, throughout the film, in every scene she appears in, ready for life as a wife. Menon plays the most quirky role of this lot, adopting a persona—his constantly pursed lips, expressing suspicion and paranoia, and hitting unsuspecting men with cricket bats provide some moments of entertainment.

Raja Natwarlal is unimaginative pulp; it begins and ends on a lukewarm note.

Raja Natwarlal released in theatres on Friday.

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