Saturday, April 26, 2014

Revolver Rani 

Gangsta Queen
Alka Singh, the gun-toting gangster politician in macho, crime-ridden Madhya Pradesh, could have been India’s Modesty Blaise. But after establishing this quirky character, Sai Kabir lets the film slide into confused and tedious chaos.

As played by Kangana Ranaut with curls, fake tan and dreadful fashion sense, Alka has the kind of power that allows her to get away with the murder of her husband (and many others) and pick up a man she fancies. Rohan Kapoor (Vir Das), a small town Bollywood aspirant, impresses Alka Singh in an underwear contest for males, and becomes her kept man. She produces a film for him (no sign of it, though), builds a Chambal Film City for him but keeps him on a tight leash. It’s not quite clear why the coke-snorting duplicitous actor simply does not escape, since Alka’s influence remains in the Chambal, but he turns out to be the reason for her downfall.

It is not enough to just reverse roles (he gets kidnapped by her enemies and she rides to the rescue) and amuse the audience, there has to be more to a character like Alka Singh than just male swagger.

Her political rival, Udaybhan Singh (Zakir Hussain) plots and schemes, but is out manoeuvred by Alka’s uncle Balli (Piyush Mishra), who also wields a mean pen for speech-writing.

Pity that Alka is neither a tough as she tries to look, nor sympathetic in her dying-to-be-a-“Mummy” turnaround. It’s as if Kabir put this woman on a pedestal only to have her crash into the pit of domesticity—it implies that all women have this wife-mother-homemaker genetic weak spot.

The film with all those gangsters and politicians tries to portray the hinterland in the way Anurag Kashyap and Tigmanshu Dhulia do, but the inspiration is Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.  If the film does have a sequel, as promised in the end, it is bound to be a violent rehash of the Hollywood film.

It’s a pity filmmakers cannot see strong women as anything more that imitation males. Alka does not even seem to have a mind of her own—her uncle is the puppet master.

Kangana Ranaut does bring flashes of fire to her part, but when the director is not quite clear what he wants, it’s difficult for the actress to get the right key. To be told that she is Revolver Rani and end up having her coo to teddy bears could throw any actress. It was brave of Vir Das to accept such a thoroughly despicable character, and he balances various shades well; the other men are all one-note thugs. Sai Kabir’s mixing of mofussil Indian lawlessness with Hollywood noir, and comic-book action remains uneasy. The only bit of drollery he pulls off, is in the reporting of all the mayhem around Alka by a solemn newsreader trying to make sense of the absurdity.


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