Completely off track

The opening sequence of Rajdhani Express: Point Blank Justice sets the tone for the film. Three characters—a TV news producer, a film writer and an “item girl"—are locked in an inane debate about how to expose a “police cover-up". Once they decide to go with the “breaking news", their next argument is how to get viewers’ attention. The solution: The actor takes off her clothes on national TV. “Viewers" from across the country watch open-mouthed as the film writer then starts with his monologue of the exposé.

This is actually not (unintentionally) the funniest scene in the film made by director Ashok Kohli, who has also written the dialogues and screenplay. Over the next 2 hours and 20 minutes, inexplicable twists and turns, ridiculous characters and dialogues, tacky sets (the Rajdhani has pink walls), bad music reminiscent of the 1980s and cringe-worthy performances will constantly force you to question the wisdom of making this film.

It’s unfortunately also the movie debut of tennis player Leander Paes.

Keshav (Paes), who is some sort of a domestic help for some sort of a racketeer, steals a ticket and a bag with a gun and gets on the Rajdhani Express from Delhi to Mumbai. In his cubicle in the train are a fashion designer (Sudhanshu Pandey trying hard), the Marx-quoting Bollywood writer who can barely speak Hindi (an over-the-top Priyanshu Chatterjee), the actor with heavy eye make-up (Puja Bose) and a shudh (pure) Hindi-speaking travelling ticket examiner (Gulshan Grover). At some point, because of the gun, the movie becomes a hold-up/suspense/thriller and a policeman (Jimmy Shergill doing exactly what he always does) gets into the “chase".

There is an assortment of other comical characters: a politician who speaks for many hours in Marathi, his old parents who are on the train, a bunch of railway policemen guarding the parents who leave as soon as the gun-toting “terrorist" comes into their cabin, a policewoman (Shilpa Shukla with her right hand firmly in her ill-fitting pant pockets) and a cabinet minister’s Caucasian wife who drags a complete stranger into her cubicle and gives him a pill because she thinks he is not “feeling well". My favourites are two girls in the TV studio who just sit and look at their boss’ iPhone ringing over many shots before finally exclaiming, “Oh shit, madam to chali gayi (Madam is not here)!"

There is not a single redeeming feature to the film but if anything deserves extra mention, then it has to be Paes. One of India’s most accomplished tennis players, known for his many emotional outbursts on court, he keeps a straight face through this mayhem. His backstory of being in love with his employer’s daughter comes through many grainy flashbacks in flashbacks accompanied by random music. It’s never established if the woman loves him too, but that would have made matters too complicated.

Why Paes chose to do this film is a question that will never have a convincing answer.

Rajdhani Express: Point Blank Justice released in theatres on Friday.

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