Sunday, March 10, 2013

Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns 

On The Chessboard

The surprise success of Tigmanshu Dhulia’s wickedly dark Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, probably called for a sequel that mostly goes over old ground, but creates a cast of even more twisted characters, and throws them in a simmering cauldron of ambition, frustration and hate.

This ‘Return’ has a new gangster in the form of a minor princeling Inderpratap Singh (Irrfan), the family’s former glory reduced to a decrepit haveli. He is called Raja Bhaiya, and craves wealth, power and revenge against Saheb or Aditya Pratap Singh (Jimmy Sheirgill), who was shot in the first film, and is now in a wheelchair. His drunken wife Madhavi (Mahie Gill), who had grabbed political power at the end of Part One, realises, even in an alcoholic haze, that she must do something to get out of the rut she has got herself into.

Aditya Pratap wants to marry Ranjana (Soha Ali Khan), and pressurises her father (Raj Babbar) into agreeing to the match.  But Ranjana is in love with Inder, who in turn is using Madhavi to get what he wants, as she uses him. The game of love and sex plays out against a complicated political backdrop that involves the partition of UP, and four former royals trying to get the best of the situation.

Even from his wheelchair, Aditya oversees a gang of bandits, manipulates a greedy politician (Rajeev Gupta—hilarious), and keeps the two women on tenterhooks in a way. 

 After the characters and their motivations are introduced—and it’s interesting to see at least three of them as totally amoral and selfish— Dhulia can’t keep either the pace or the plot moving to a satisfying finale.  The ending, however, leaves a hint about another sequel, which might be pushing it a bit. The one who comes off as really strong and ruthless is Madhavi— and that rarely happens in Bollywood.  The director and the two male leads deserve appreciation for letting this go through. Both Jimmy Sheirgill and Irrfan are in fine fettle; Mahie Gill overacting a bit, comes into her own in this film.

What Dhulia does well is lay out the chessboard and move his characters around expertly, but the game goes on for too long and with too many needless distractions. The locations are wonderful and realistic, and Dhulia, as always, brings small town India alive on screen vividly.  But how much more interest can a viewer muster up for the shenanigans of dethroned rajas and raanis?


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