Rocky, yes. handsome, nah!

More rocky than handsome

  • Published 26.03.16

Director: Nishikant Kamat
Cast: John Abraham, Shruti Haasan, Nishikant Kamat, Sharad Kelkar 
Running time: 126 minutes

Bollywood is that incredible Xerox machine which can turn a brilliant original film into a damp squib of a copy. This is after buying the rights, after not changing a thing, after adding a backstory. 

The irony of the backstory, though, is that the hero is supposed to be ‘The Man From Nowhere’, the name of the biggest Korean blockbuster of 2010 from where Rocky Handsome is adapted. Now if you show his past, he doesn’t exactly remain the man from nowhere, does he?

But that is the least of the problems of the Nishikant Kamat-directed film, produced by and starring John Abraham in the title role. The core emotion of the original film was the beautiful bond between the lonely protagonist — a former special operations military man — and the kid living next door with her heroin addict mother. So, when the little girl is kidnapped, he takes it upon himself to cut through the drug mafia and get her back.

Here, it’s difficult to bond with a kid (Baby Diya) so oversmart (Hindi cinema’s good ol’ paaka bachcha!) you want to tell her to shut up and send her back to school. But Kabir (John) — the pawnshop owner avatar of ex-RAW agent Rocky — listens to her jibber-jabber and cooks her pomfret curry. But it’s Goa and soon the big kingfishes of the sea emerge, tracking drugs and trading organs.

Nishikant does a Prakash Jha here, playing the main villain himself or rather playing the villain who gets killed last. There are quite a few who die before him, body parts dismembered, eyes gouged, organs stolen, skin sewn. The Anti Narcotics Cell does the umpiring in the game, hardly making their presence felt and mostly watching the action from the sidelines.

If there’s no chemistry with the kid, Kabir’s memories of his dead wife — Shruti Haasan bouncing on the beaches of Seychelles, fake smile plastered on face — are emphatically ho-hum. Because the emotions all ring so false, the beating and the bashing have no context and draw no cheer.

Nevertheless, on their own, the action set-pieces are the best thing about Rocky Handsome, a couple of them intercut with two scorching dance numbers, one featuring Nathalia Kaur and the other Nora Fatehi, the latter using the decade-old party anthem Teri toh teri ta to optimal effect.

John has long figured that keeping a neutral face is his safest bet as far as histrionics are concerned and, as Kuleshov had shown a hundred years back, the intercutting shots of other actors and situations would bring out his feelings. His bare-bodied shots speak louder, though, and the hand-to-hand combats pack a few punches more. 

Nishikant the actor does fine bringing an uncanny edge to the bad guy. Playing his brother, Teddy Maurya (the receptionist of Jab We Met’s Hotel Decent) is way over the top. Sharad Kelkar as the investigating cop looks interested enough.

Rocky Handsome is more rocky and less handsome. Jazbaa last year and now this, the Korean roots in Bollywood seem to be running low on (kim)chi.

Pratim D. Gupta