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After Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Ajay Devgn, it's the Khiladi Kumar's turn to go the Southern way, starring in another action-packed remake. Akshay Kumar stars in Prabhudeva's second wind in Bollywood, Rowdy Rathore, and he does so with Élan; is that enough, though?
The big news is that with Rowdy Rathore, Akki returns to his trademarked action avatar seven years after he was last seen in one, in 2004's Aan - Men At Work. The film is also Prabhudeva's second coming, three years after the Southie dancer-turned-director set the Bollywood box-office afire, helming the Salman Khan-starrer 'Wanted. This one's a remake too, that of S. S. Rajamouli's original Ravi Teja, Anushka Shetty-starrer Vikramarkudu, which has already seen success in Tamil as Siruthai, in Kannada as Veera Madakari and in Bengali as Bikram Singha.
In Rowdy Rathore, what truly works in the film's favour is a combination of the two stars, Akshay's perfect timing, and Prabhudeva's fine-tuned southern sensibilities, which come together to make Rowdy Rathore an out-and-out entertainer.
But then, the duo is treading on a double-edged sword, because what works for it, is also liable to alienate the more upwardly-mobile segment in Bollywood's cinegoing crowds. Of all the Hindi remakes of southern films, like Wanted, Singham and Ghajini, Rowdy Rathore is, perhaps, the one most sincere to its Telugu, Tamil roots, bringing along that trademark southern grammar in the over-the-top story, the extended flashbacks, the touches of sentimental melodrama and the hard-punching action, all tailored to fit Akshay perfectly.
The story, though, might strike some as being quite illogical. When a roadside rowdy and thief, Shiva, Akshay Kumar, finds a little girl claiming to be his daughter, he finds that there might be more to the claim than meets his eye. He finds that he has a look-alike in the heroic ASP Vikram Singh Rathore, the saviour of a village near Patna that is under the thumb of a tyrant, Baapji, played by Southern actor Nassar. When Shiva suddenly finds things go awry, he has to abandon a budding romance with his love, Priya, played by Sonakshi Sinha, to go save Rathore's village.
Though the film fits the Southern potboiler mould perfectly, some of the humour, like the banter between Shiva, and his accomplice 2G, played by Paresh Ganatra, might seem crass and flat to Hindi audiences. The same goes for the quickstep romance between Akshay and Sonakshi, that Prabhudeva seems to be in a hurry to get through. The over-the-top tyranny that the film's antagonist, Baapji, exhibits in his dealings with the village, instead, is comically anachronistic by Hindi standards, Bollywood having done away with these caricaturish Gabbar-type characters quite a while ago.
However, where the film truly lights up is in the flashbacks featuring Akshay as Vikram Rathore, and in the climactic action sequences of the film. It's clear that fire is still burning within the erstwhile Khiladi, and in the film's super slickly-executed action sequences, Akshay is in his element.
While Akshay is clearly the star of the film, playing the funny Shiva and the serious Vikram with equal ease and aplomb, Sonakshi Sinha as his romantic half manages to leave a fair mark as well, though this one is a much flimsier role that her debut hit, Dabangg. But the talented actress needs to pick up films that give her a better deal than this, if she is to rise to the industry's top tiers. The same goes for the other players here, with the likes of Yashpal Sharma and Paresh Ganatra wasted in tiresome roles. Nassar is unconvincing as Bihari don, Baapji, especially with a thick southern accent clouding his Hindi, while the other antagonist, Baapji's brother Tilla, played by another southie, Supreeth, has been dubbed for.
Santosh Thundiyil brings some interesting touches to the visuals of the film with his cinematography, taking the camera right into the thick of things, especially during the fast-paced action sequences of the film.
Though Sajid-Wajid do well on the music with some tracks, like Chinta-Ta-Ta Chita, on the others, especially with the likes of Dhadang Dhang and Chamak Challo Chel Chabeli, the sound seems quite outdated.
Ultimately, Rowdy Rathore is a two-man show that is riding only on the backs of Akshay Kumar and Prabhudeva. While it has its faults, it's quite impressive that between the two of them Akshay and Prabhu do manage to make this film quite an enjoyable, paisa-vasool affair, and if nothing else, make it a must-watch, simply for the return of Kumar's Khiladi avatar...
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars