Cast: John Abraham, Shruti Haasan, Nathalia Kaur, Diya Chalwad, Nishikant Kamat, Sharad Kelkar, Teddy Maurya
Director: Nishikant Kamat
It’s pouring in Goa. A brooding man appears in a hoodie to buy fish. Deadly keen that it be fresh, he checks. It is firm to the touch. On his way home he pauses to ponder fresh flowers. This triggers sweet-sad memories of freshly bathed Rukshida (Shruti Haasan). There she was, in not too distant past, slithering in their balcony past the net curtains with a smile and a song, and, at times, partaking in pleasurable activities that involved caressing him.
We know that flowers trigger memories, but why the fish? Perhaps it was Rukshida’s constructed pout that has forged a peculiar bond between broody and fish. Perhaps. But never mind that. What’s important is that broody runs KA’s Pawn shop. And the moment he opens his shop, Nayomi (Diya Chalwad), his neighbour, appears. Though little, she is very talky, cocky and wanting to be friends. Nayomi steals stuff and then pawns it for cash because her mommy, Tara (Nathalia Kaur), when not skidding up and down shiny poles in night clubs, is doing drugs and getting fidgety. Both mommy and daughter call broody Handsome.
His real name is revealed later, after a considerable amount of time is spent establishing what a den of staggering evil and vices Goa is. There are Russians, drugs and a prostitution-cum-begging racket of course, but also a thriving organ trade. Only the last enterprise is somewhat relevant to the plot because, you see, organs are not taken after a form is duly signed and the donor declared dead. This business thrives on the realised threat to people who cross the organ dealers: “Teri dono kidney-aan nikal doonga.”
There is a sort of pyramid of goondas on top of which sits Manthu. He is not relevant. Manthu’s minions, the Pereira Brothers, are. Luke Pereira (Teddy Maurya) has partial hair growth, while Kevin (Nishikant Kamat) is takla. One brother tries to seem menacing by acting as if he’s having a stroke.
Then there’s ANC, a gang of cops who are after all baddies and their bad dhandas. This loser bunch is led by Sharad Kelkar and they are kind of relevant. Their bumbling provides some mirth, but, more importantly, it’s thanks to their incompetence that a dark secret of our intelligence and investigating forces gets revealed.
Nayomi, the toothless cutie, tries to attach herself to Handsome, but he is just too morose. However, when Anna steals some drugs and Luke arrives to give a demo of how a hairdryer can be an effective instrument of torture, Handsome gets drawn out of his daily routine of fish shopping-sad memories-pawn shop and shows the baddies and bumbling cops what a bad idea it was to rouse him.
ANC is in a tizzy after they watch him do kaam-tamam of many men. No one knows who he is. Nervous and curious, but forever incompetent, ANC dashes off a mail from Handsome’s email account to the President of the United States of America, with the message: “I will kill you”, thus revealing not just the email address of the American President, but also what Indian cops do when they need information. Threaten the American President and the Americans will get to the bottom of it all.
Once ANC knows kaun hai yeh, aur kahan se aaya hai, they tell it to us using ludicrous adjectives and acronyms, though the accompanying, illustrative montage is fun. He is MA: Merciless Assassin; also TP: True Patriot. And may I add, SCNLL — Sullen Cannon Now Let Loose. He was so lethal that once, at a friendly demo he was giving, some officials in the audience fainted.
The sudden, swift sequences of extreme violence may make you faint as well if you don’t have the stomach for slicing, jabbing, shooting, face drubbing and other bloody acts that lead to annihilation of scoundrels and sinners.
Director Nishikant Kamat’s Rocky Handsome is constructed with the same strokes — though here watered down to spurious quality — that were used in Force (2011). That film, also directed by Kamat, worked well and is now reduced to a formula: A sulking hero who skulks around in retirement mode gets drawn out of seclusion to do paap ka vinash. Initially reluctant, but once he’s in the zone, he’s fast and furious.
In this formula, the killer machine’s love interest exists only to supply context and psychological bruise: He was happy once, now he is not; he had a life once, now he doesn’t. The little girl exists so that the failed protector can redeem himself by protecting her. All very simple and primitive. Problem is that Kamat wastes too much time in showcasing vices and vicious men when the whole point of this decidedly B-grade film is to pleasure us with base emotions and savage action.
I find John Abraham a very interesting action hero. An actor of few words and fewer expressions, he begins as a disinterested, perfunctory warrior, almost as if apologetic for being a walking-talking killer machine. But once in the game, he expresses full commitment to doing villains ki aisi-taisi with blood-shot eyes and rising trapezius muscle.
Then there’s the action itself. Of all our action heroes, he is the only one who actually does “action”. Ajay Devgn and Hrithik can move, but they mostly do flying, jumping, spectacle kicking. Sunny Paaji deals one deadly blow per baddie, and Akshay Kumar does circus acrobatics. The rest, owing to age and bulk, make do with posing while the action director and the CGI team fling stuff and extras around them. Only John Abraham does action that’s raw and real.
Also, John Abraham’s action heroes don’t express pain with a stunned stare and one-tear drop. They wail and howl, complete with spit, tears and face contortions. I love that. And finally, of course, there’s the shameless joy of reverse sexism. There is an unmatched devious glint in the female gaze when the object of gaze is John Abraham.
In action films John gets the Mandakini treatment. No, no, he doesn’t suckle infants on train berths. He is just put under water all the time, shirtless. Water cascades down that torso with repeated, delicious regularity. When he is outdoors, it rains. And when he’s indoors, he’s taking sad, therapeutic showers. There he is not just shirtless but butt naked. Yippee!
Rocky Handsome has all this, plus very cool fight scenes. Few villains match up to John physically. In Force he had Vidyut Jamwal, and that’s why the body combat had a thrill to it. Here all the evil men are physically laughable in front of him except one sidekick. But after interval there’s relentless action, including one sequence where John wields two knives and the bodycount mounts every second. It’s stunning and may well be considered a classic by desi videogame geeks.
Apart from body leching — at the action and the bathing body — there’s little going for Rocky Handsome. Nayomi, who is the film’s second lead, is saddled not just with a wig that looks like a dead crow, but is given the soul and lines of Leela Chitnis in the throes of bathos. It’s tacky writing and direction. Yet, if stylised action, including the hero landing on car bonnets a la Batman, is your thing, then you’ll enjoy this film. And there’s enough body show by Abraham to make sure your girlfriend will come out of the hall with a goofy grin. Like me.