Shashi Baliga

Ranbir’s shameless mistake

Shashi Baliga | Updated on October 10, 2013

Family show! Actors Neetu, Rishi

Ranbir Kapoor in Besharam.

I can think of any number of reasons to go see a film. But coughing up half a thousand to see a real-life family together on the screen isn’t one of them. I fail to see how it helps the movie apart from the opportunity to make some tired in-jokes and include loaded lines of dialogue.

Indeed, I’ve always been baffled by this marketing pitch. Is it because of the great Indian obsession with the family? Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan together for the first time! Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh together for the first time in decades! Rishi Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor to act together for the first time! And now, for Besharam, Rishi, Neetu and Ranbir to act, fight and dance together for the first time!

I was suspicious — as I should well have been. When a film is publicised for ‘attractions’ such as this, you know there’s little else to talk about. But it took me over two agonising hours, a desperate tub of popcorn, and the last bits of my tolerance to figure out just how little this film has to offer.

When a film’s main gags centre around the hero’s crotch and a constipated policeman whose wife is constantly accusing him of being unable to get her pregnant, you might think there’s little leeway left to get tackier. But no, we are given excruciating details — of early morning erections, loud bathroom noises, socks padding up the crotch… I’ll stop here. About the only crude gag that director Abhinav Kashyap hasn’t trotted out is cross-dressing and for that, I suppose, we should be grateful to him.

Scatology, sexual humour and cross-dressing are the shortest line to a laugh in most Hindi films. But it takes a skilful director and an actor with a fine sense of self-parody to carry them off. Delhi Belly did that as delightfully as Indra Kumar’s incredibly offensive Masti series doesn’t.

Besharam is neither. It begins like a full-on toilet/ sexual humour flick but, somewhere along the way, it slips into clichéd masala territory: orphaned kids, a growling villain, trigger-happy goons and badly done action scenes. And the besharam (shameless) car thief morphs into a golden-hearted Robin Hood.

Everything in this film reeks, or perhaps I should say stinks, of pandering to the box-office. And of doing it all execrably. There’s practically nothing that this film gets right.

The hero overacts like it’s his last film, the heroine acts like it’s her first film (which it is) , the supporting cast hams away, the dialogue is tacky, the songs are an infliction, and at the end of it all you wonder: what the hell was Ranbir Kapoor doing in this film?

Here’s the golden boy of Hindi cinema, the big hope for tomorrow, with some solid movies and performances under his belt, a sackful of awards, two Rs 100-crore hits in his last outings — and this is what he comes up with? What made him do a role that even Riteish Deshmukh might have quailed at? Perhaps the law of cinematic averages caught up with him, perhaps he got a little too cocky, perhaps the ‘family package’ deal tipped the scales? Who knows; the only thing that’s certain is that his judgment, which everyone thought was near-infallible, has crashed with a tacky thud.

Okay, let me say this in his defence: he’s about the only actor who could have even tried to carry off this role. He tries very hard to turn on the charm, he’s the only reason Besharam does not degenerate into a Grand Masti. But nothing could help salvage this role and its signature crotch-adjusting gag. And certainly, its dangerous stalking-style ‘wooing’ of the girl, who eventually gives in, even if she asks her mother at one point: “What if he rapes me?” I don’t even want to think of the message this sends out in the murky sexual dynamics of the world that Indian women and men inhabit today. Irresponsible doesn’t even begin to cover it. Abhinav Kashyap, you have a lot to answer for.

How the director convinced the Kapoor family to do this cringe-worthy film has to be a mystery. How did he get Rishi Kapoor to lift his overweight leg up and adjust his undies? And Neetu Kapoor to scowl and screech so shrewishly? When you consider that their last two screen outings together were that gentle cameo in Jab Tak Hai Jaan and the exquisite, award-wining Do Dooni Chaar, you want to do something violent to Kashyap. Especially since Dabangg was such a desi delight after all those uber-stylish, glittery NRI romcoms. In 2010 we thought: at last, a mainstream director who’s completely comfortable in rural India and who can make the heartland look cool. At that time, and later, when he fell out with Salman and Arbaaz Khan, the question that everyone asked was: how much did Dabangg owe Salman Khan and how much Abhinav Kashyap? Now in 2013, after Dabangg 2 and Besharam, we seem to have the answer.

For a few fleeting minutes after Besharam ended, I looked at the 20-odd people in the hall who were trooping out and I consoled myself that the clearly dismal collections would hopefully lead Kashyap to a different direction the next time around.

But soon, the horrifying thought struck: What if he went the Grand Masti way instead? What if he decided that the key was to go all out all the way and not hold back? Grand Masti got some of the worst reviews this year but as I write this, I hear it’s crossed the Rs 100 crore benchmark, the first adult Hindi movie to do so. The coming months will tell us if it’s going to spawn a string of misbegotten me-toos. All we can do is hope that things will not get that besharam.

Published on October 10, 2013

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