Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Kay Kay Menon, Paresh Rawal, Humaima Malik
Director: Kunal Deshmukh
Rating: 2.5 stars
'Raja Natwarlal' is just what diehard fans of Emraan Hashmi were waiting for after the 'serial kisser' took an offbeat turn in his last two films, running after daayans and losing his memory. In this film he is back to being the street-smart hero, who in this case is a small-time conman named Raja.
The film is packed to the brim with all essentials of a masala-entertainer. There’s a gripping premise of a revenge plan, little bit of comedy, some interesting dialogues and convincing performances from the chief cast. But in a bid to broaden the suspense and make the twists more unpredictable, the story gets entwined in all the yarns it manages to spin for over two hours. Red herrings are all right, especially in a suspense-slash-revenge plot. But given the number of loopholes that commercial Bollywood seems to be so okay with, the storyteller ought to have reduced the U-turns in the plot. There’s only so much you want to be misled in a plot that is riddled with lapses in logic.
The first half holds your attention in setting up the premise. Emraan Hashmi is convincing as a small-time scamster with a big heart. His partner in crime is Deepak Tijori who plays Raghav. He is like a brother to him, from another mother. They are happy with their small earnings until they give in to the temptation of a bada game and trouble begins. Soon Raja finds himself caught in a web of heinous crimes, all championed by a master gangster Varda Yadav, played by a menacing Kay Kay Menon. To settle scores with the Cape Town-based Varda, Raja turns to Yogi (Paresh Rawal) in Dharamshala to mentor him. And thus begins a cat and mouse revenge saga. There are some edgy moments in the film but sadly they don’t manage to sustain the thrill for 140 minutes.
In the second half, the characters shuttle between Cape Town and Mumbai as if they were a few lanes apart. The pace becomes feverish and not in a good way. Characters spring in and out of nowhere and the plot is stretched to its limits until the chord of credibility snaps completely. A hurried writing job manages to steer the story towards a happy ending but too many twists make it a choppy, exhausting ride.
It’s the performances where 'Raja Natwarlal' manages to score. The casting is spot on. The talented Emraan beautifully blends vengeance and vulnerability. He’s back to locking lips and packing a punch and fans will simply lap him up. Paresh as Yogi brings a certain dignity to the role of a crook in a way only he can. His is the most layered character in the film and he pulls it off with panache. Kay Kay Menon’s steely eyes and cold-blooded reserve bring to life the savage scoundrel of Varda. The only weak link is Humaima Malik who overdoes the part of a shrill, over-concerned girlfriend. The music is very average, which is not common in Kunal Deshmukh films. But given that Emraan is back as the roadside Romeo hero, and that Bollywood has well trained us to go easy on the logic bit, 'Raja Natwarlal' could just be a watchable fare.