For starters, I find Race an apology of a franchise which smartly conceals its tack quotient with oodles of glamour. Indeed, the first edition was neat fun and that could be attributed to Abbas-Mustan’s mastery over their brand of cinema. The duo knew the trick to knit suspense around the most outlandish subjects they often chose to make films on. The men in Race were clever – well, in an educated sort of way. Saif Ali Khan clad in crisp, well-tailored suits became a prominent peg in a film that flaunted a rich, classy visual language. The girls were sexy, anglicized and had the ability to gyrate like a dream. Even if they happened to mouth some of the most ridiculous lines, the actors seldom came across to be foolish. Race had an organic hint of sophistication which was intact even in its forgettable second edition. More so because the directors hired players who belonged to a similar ilk – suave, trendy and very, very distant. Now, Race 3 gets the common man’s superhero, Salman Khan who is basic, approachable and undeniably desi. Khan’s entry is precisely the film’s money moment and also the awkward one where the brand ‘Race’ goes right out of the window.
Say hello to the newly appointed director Remo D’Souza’s take on the world of swashbucklers, seductresses and mammoth family betrayals. This time there is a dying mother who is a genuine upgrade to the one in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. She makes videotapes for her children, Well, no pun intended there. The characters briefly break into Bhojpuri because, boy, the main dude Shamsher (Anil Kapoor) belongs to a certain village in Bihar and he also wants to go settle right there leaving his majestic empire in the Emirates. There is his proverbial “family” (pronounced with a distinct twang, ‘femilee’) which comprises of Sikandar (Salman Khan), Sanjana (Daisy Shah) and Suraj (Saqib Saleem). Yash (Bobby Deol), who is introduced as a bodyguard is also shown to have stakes in the family unit, even though the exact reason behind it is never revealed. Then there is the svelte Jessica (Jacqueline Fernandez) whose only job is to double-cross the entire cast members and their extended families, making us sigh and guffaw, “Why?” Oh, there is also a flashback segment from what looks like the ‘80s or an abandoned Sanjay Gupta set. Shamsher and his elder brother own a small-town unit which supplies ammunition to the Indian army (what!) and is being threatened by local dacoits for reasons only Bollywood can fathom. There you are seated in a plush multiplex amid perplexed co-viewers watching a bizarre love child of Bulandi, Bandhan and Wanted – in 3D, offering reasons for an additional headache.
Coming to the story – which is largely absent due to certain godawful twists and turns – the family’s assets are unequally shared between the step-siblings, all thanks to their enormously clever mother who had her math and probability skills on point. The mother’s will angle is one that is severely questionable as to how the woman becomes the heir to such valuable assets if the entire empire were to be constructed after the family fled to the Emirates. Why are they forever squabbling over millions and billions if the family stood excommunicated from India, seemingly stripped off all their wealth? Absurdly enough, the double-cross angle reaches an extent where we see a couple romance in yachts and across exotic foreign locales, only to realize how incestuous was the whole thing once the puzzle is solved. Jesus, what were they thinking?
Besides betrayals, Race 3 attempts to spin a story around Shamsher’s illegitimate business. There is a half-baked blackmail scheme involving ministers from several Indian states who have been shot performing ‘aiyaashi’ in a plush Manali hotel. There are heavy words such as drugs, LSD, MDMA and the likes thrown in with an inexplicable request for land ownership in the ministers’ respective states. If this didn’t make you dizzy already, there is also a staple villain (Freddy Daruwala) in Race 3 whose only job is to, well, EXIST because there is nothing else to do. There are ‘intelligence officers’ who wouldn’t pass a generic IQ test. There is a chase sequence that teleports you to the Amitabh Bachchan era where a white shirt-clad Sikandar escapes every single bullet fired from what appears to be military vehicles driven by trained personnel with world-class ammunition. Sikandar and his ladylove eventually escape the troop via the sky route when they leap off a cliff, resembling oversized flying squirrels. This is also a juncture where we question the writers’ elementary skills in geography as the couple jumps from a lower height and ends up flying higher for mysterious reasons.
So, in order to (somewhat) tolerate the existence of Race 3, we should rather concede to the fact that this is a Salman Khan film at the end of the day. Khan, on his part, seems to know every bit of what he is doing and firmly shoulders the film as if his personal prestige depends on its success. Nevertheless, there is this blaring disinterest that clouds Khan’s face which is perhaps a hint that the film had gone off his radar right in the beginning. Then there is Bobby Deol making his grand screen return. What we miss is the smartass Bobby for whom ‘everything was planned’ right from his Ajnabee days. Here the poor man gets to deal with briefcases stacked with dollar notes, taking us back to the days of his dad, Dharmendra. By the way, his entry sequence is smashing and so is the jolt in the finale – which pretty much seals the deal for the actor who gets a fair share of meat in the otherwise ludicrous screenplay (Shiraz Ahmed). While providing the film’s most convincing act, Anil Kapoor, too, gets a money shot of an entry which would have easily fallen flat if done by a lesser actor. While Daisy Shah and Saqib Saleem are clearly ill-at-ease playing the rich, rookie brats, Jacqueline Fernandez ticks all checkboxes she has been asked to even though her Jessica is an excuse of a character. All of them get to perform a series of ghastly songs, the horrendous lyrics of which might just give you cancer.
As the film ends, I couldn’t stop chuckling how director Remo D’Souza mistook the Race franchise for something that he could intersect with a Salman Khan masala potboiler. Look at the barrages the poor man is saddled with. He even has to inject the classic moment where ‘bhai’ rips off his t-shirt. During a strangely orchestrated slow-motion action sequence, we observe the DOP (Ayananka Ghosh) focus disturbingly on the middle-aged actors’ loose torsos and it doesn’t help that we could barely hold on to our 3D glasses while enduring this mishap. Where is the style, the seduction, the glamour and the fireworks? Well, hiring a band of rather unfortunate looking actors and cladding them up in slinky designer clothes, do not give you another edition of Race. You would, at best, get a replica of No Entry or Wanted and that too if Salman Khan is as kicked as the makers are – which unfortunately isn’t the case here.
Rating: ★ 1/2
Author at Filmy Sasi