Reflections on PLAYERS (Hindi, 2012) *Minor Spoilers*
This is my first review in a while and hopefully I get a chance to maintain this side of things in 2012…
Reflections on PLAYERS (Hindi, 2012)
The first release of the year and that too an Abbas-Mustaan multi-cast thriller, PLAYERS came up with a high set of expectations. Even though every single actor in the film needed a hit badly (Abhishek, Sonam, Bipasha, Bobby, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Sikander Kher) the directors last release RACE was very much in the same vein and a huge blockbuster. Touted to be an “official” remake of THE ITALIAN JOB (not the Michael Caine classic but the F.Gary Gray directed Mark Wahlberg starrer) PLAYERS very much looked like a adrenalin-pumping action-thriller. So does the movie live up to expectations? Sadly, no.
Firstly, coming right after DON 2 wasn’t such a good idea. While Farhan Akhtar’s high-octane sequel is very easily the most stylish film on technical grounds and the narrative here was singular and very much in the mould of an actual Hollywood heist film though it was apparent still that this was a “wanna-be” rather than the genuine thing though close. Essentially, both DON’s are primarly designed for a high-end Multiplex audience who in some ways look down on “masala” cinema (or certain aesthetics have to be altered to please their sensitibilities), PLAYERS on the other hand most certainly has a plot lifted from an Hollywood hit, it has style and it also has a hefty dose of rip-rollicking action which outdoes the original, however at heart, PLAYERS is about as “desi” as a film gets which would please the aam junta.. Abbas-Mustaan are one of the few directors in Hindi cinema who can adapt an Hollywood thriller to Bollywood sensibilities with the right voltage of twists, sizzles and masala to create a blockbuster in both multiplexes and single screens. With PLAYERS however, the marring of the old and the new just doesn’t do the trick.
The basic plot of the story revolves around a group of PLAYERS (professional thieves to be precise) who decide to rob a lot of gold from a fast moving train In Russia. Victor (Vinod Khanna) decides to help his protégé Charlie (Abhishek Bachchan) conduct one last job so he can fulfil his dream of building an orphanage. To pull of the job he needs the right team of Players which include an illusionist (Bobbby Deol), a bomb expert (Sikander Kher), a make-up and costume artist (Omi Vadiya), a computer hacker named Spider (Neil Nitin Mukesh) as well as two hot babes (Sonam Kapoor and Bipasha Basu).
While the initial heist goes to plan, there is a traitor in the team of PLAYERS….who is the traitor?
The film is sadly predictable and is salvaged by the stunning action sequences. Both the train sequence and the car chase scene in the finale are fantastic. Abbas-Mustaan heavily rely on formula here and it doesn’t work in their favour this time. The “twist on twist” worked really well in RACE, here however each twist is so predictable to start with that you see it coming a mile off.
The film is one where the characters are never built to start with but are more personas. Abhishek Bachchan glides in and out with a cool and suave performance as the leading man. My only fault here was that he was “too cool” at times, and lacked that extra bit of “zing” in the drama or confrontation scenes which would’ve made his character stronger. The persona works remarkably well In something like BLUFFMASTER. His performance here reminded me a lot of the original DHOOM in the sense Charlie is cool, calm and calculated and always got a plan on step in advance. He’s in control as the leading man with a smouldering screen presence. Aside from the drama/confrontation, maybe a few comic sequences with him and Omi or him and Johhny would’ve really hit the mark. As an Abhishek fan, it is somewhat paining to see Abhishek go through the “motions” of being a leading man rather than stick his teeth into full fledged, author-backed characters like in DUM MAARO DUM, RAAVAN, DELHI 6, KHJJS etc, however at this stage Abhishek needs massive commercial hits more than anything else. I get the feeling BOL BACHCHAN is where we’ll really see Abhishek come to the fore with a outright comic performance and from there DHOOM 3. As I said the other day, it’s all about the narrative. With films like D6, KHJJS, RAAVAN etc he’s working with a totally different “get-up” (genre, director, theme, narrative) each time hence it becomes harder for him to establish a signature. Now by getting back into commercial with a vengeance (PLAYERA is only a start, and it may be a rocky one at that) but BOL BACHCHAN, DHOOM 3, CHAKRAVYUAH combined I think will form an interesting narrative regardless of the PLAYERS outcome.
Neil Nitin Mukesh as the films main villain has been given the second meatiest role and he does it with aplomb though it comes across as all too familiar. It’s obvious that Abbas-Mustaan were fans of JOHNNY GADDARR and Neil’s Spider is very much in line with him. Mukesh shines in a negative performance. Abbas-Mustaan seem very inspired by campy 60’s films one gets the feeling and go a tad overboard at times by presenting Neil set-up with a massive Castle-like haveli where he makes his “chamiyaa” Sonam Kapoor dance which draws an instant reminder to the “villains dens” in Hindi movies from the 70’s and 80’s. That aside, even a lot of the melodrama seems to be modelled on those films, and again the marring of THAT precise masala (more of a retro 60’s) with a modern update just doesn’t vibe as well.
Bipasha looks hot in a bikini-no complaints. Sonam Kapoor on the other hand is miscast in her part. She fails to convey the attitude which was the most essential part of her character, and just doesn’t have enough oomph for the more seductive parts where she looks terribly uncomfortable. Yes she looks extremely gorgeous on-screen and shares superb chemistry with Abhishek, but that aside, she just doesn’t have it in her to carry off the emotional parts with conviction.
Omi Vadiya and Sikander Kher are both fantastic in their respective roles and hit the right notes. Bobby Deol is surprisingly an odd one out. His character has minimal footage, is fleshed out more than the others, yet Deol makes no impact at all and is bumped off fairly early too?
Pritam’s music just bores on-screen and this is one movie where you wish there were less songs. The lack of a blockbuster like ZARRA ZARRA In race is sorely missed here.
Technically the film is slick. Abbas-Mustaan retain a lot of campy charm from 60’s Hindi films and merge it with the modern update of the Gray remake (in this case the 60’s masala representing perhaps the campness of Caines version)? The translation is an odd one which surely has it’s moments due to some stunning action pieces and some endearing performances, but that aside PLAYERS fails to hit the mark. A one time watch only for the fans!