Cast: Sunny Deol, Om Puri, Narendra Jha, Manoj Joshi, Soha Ali Khan, Shivam Patil, Aanchal Munjal, Rishabh Arora, Diana Khan, Tisca Chopra, Sachin Khedekar, Nadira Babbar, Zakir Hussain
Director: Sunny Deol
The story of Ghayal Once Again, which is set in Mumbai 2015, is a continuation from 1990, the first time Ajay Mehra (Sunny Deol) was ghayal. He was hurt then by the malicious and malignant Balwant Rai (Amrish Puri) whom Ajay eventually obliterated from the face of this earth.
When we meet him now, he’s already a little ghayal. It’s hurt lingering from then. No one from his family and past is alive except Joe D’Souza (Om Puri). An ACP then, Joe is now an RTI activist.
For those who haven’t watched or don’t remember Ghayal 1990, there are brief and instructive flashbacks — memories that torture Ajay and beckon the hyperventilating neuro doctor (Soha Ali Khan). She seems to have only one patient, and there doesn’t seem to be any love angle. Her perplexing presence in the film seem to be only to say to Ajay when he’s sweating and looking like his motherboard is short circuiting, “Memories se khelna band karo, Ajay.” Hah! What does she know?
Ajay Mehra is a sweet memory for those of us who don’t (and didn’t) go to the movies only to watch a film. We often went (and still go) to watch the stars be. And since 1983, Sunny Deol has been one such star for me. I didn’t miss a single outing of his till Gadar, especially not with Rajkumar Santoshi. I could try and explain, but you won’t get what Sunny Deol means to me. Even I don’t get it sometimes. It’s the sort of stuff long therapy sessions were invented for. But let’s just say that after watching Ghayal Once Again’s terrible trailer a fortnight ago, I was depressed, dreading watching the film. But while watching him on Friday, I was smiling.
If there was a pink tutu that would fit me, I would have worn it and danced in the aisle while Ajay Mehra went dhishum-dhishum and did full satyanash of evil men and their forces. The dhai kilo ka haath is back and it’s as deadly as it was then. Yeah!
Ghayal, Ghatak, Damini, Arjun, Dacait, Yateem, Ziddi were great films. They had compelling stories set in believable contexts, interesting characters, plots and an excellent supporting cast.
But, essentially, they were all films designed to create, nurture, showcase and, well, milk the myth of Killer Sunny Paaji, the ultimate angry action machine. He’s that rare screamer whose bite is worse than his bark. And Sunny’s bark has always been rather scary.
The story and plotting of his films has been simple and similar: An aam, moralistic, upright man is living a simple life and enjoying small joys till he just, well, stumbles onto the path of evil. Unlike others, he doesn’t slink away quietly. He speaks up. Stands up and against. Protests. That’s when evil casts its deadly eyes on him and sets out to destroy his small world.
As evil begins destroying his world, our rage at the rising levels of aatank and our own middle-class impotence grows. We sit at the edge of our seats, getting angrier and angrier, our frustration rising as we watch innocents being thrashed. And wondering, where the hell is he?
And then, when, it all catches his attention... bus, that’s when we sit back because our days of worrying are now over. Literally. We can now enjoy our popcorn while watching him annihilate each and every one with singular focus and fury.
We’ve had many action heroes. Rajini Sir, of course. But also AB, Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan. But none so completely pivoted on moral rage as Sunny Deol. He is more Bheem than Arjun.
Here his righteous credentials are established by the fact that he runs a newspaper called Satyakam (the title of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s affecting 1969 film starring Dharmendra in one of his best roles ever; it won the national award for best feature film), and has a fully equipped underground world where evil men are taken and beaten by his “sach ke fidayeen” till they confess.
The sequence of events that compels the return of the Angry Killer Machine involves four children — aaj ke naujawan bachche, actually — who inadvertently record a murder. They are smart, conscientious and cool and want to do something. So they contact Ajay Mehra to do parda-faash.
But the evil men who will be implicated are very big, very powerful and very unscrupulous — businessman Raj Bansal (Narendra Jha), one mantri (Manoj Joshi) and Bansal’s bad son, Prince.
We watch their henchmen, led by a white man called Troy, chase these children and whip them, break their bones, make them bleed, cry. This torturous build-up is for us to scream, “Come on Ajay Mehra. Where are you?” And once he comes, what follows is relentless and beautifully satisfying pitaai of the evil men and their minions.
For some very interesting reason that’s unknown to me, Ghayal Once Again is constantly pointing all its fingers at a certain business family in Mumbai that own the world’s most expensive and grotesque house. Most of the film’s evil proceedings take place in a similar looking building that rather obscenely twists its way into the city’s skyline.
The film delights us as we watch the rich and powerful quake and quiver as Ajay Mehra rides a helicopter into that strange atrocity on Mumbai’s skyline. I didn’t quite figure this one out.
Ghayal Once Again has some thrilling, edgy car chases and stunts that bring to mind Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. They are the sort of things that make you laugh because they are insanely outrageous, almost comical, and yet believable because we’ve completely bought into the myth that made the star.
Ghayal Once Again uses the dhai kilo ka haath myth, Sunny’s goodwill, reputation and moral underpinnings, but, it’s a mediocre film. A much lesser film than the original it is leaning on. Director Sunny Deol is not half the director Santoshi still is, but Sunny the angry paaji is still the man he was. Sunny Deol has never been balanced, nuanced, subtle (lol). He only overdoes stuff. Everything. Even now. And I’m eternally grateful for it....