Bholaa, directed by and starring Ajay Devgn, boasts of impressively staged action sequences that consume the majority of its screen time at the cost of logic and any pretence of reality. A remake of Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Tamil film Kaithi (2019), the Hindi version focusses on the in-your-face machoism of the protagonist as he encounters and scales one action-packed hurdle after the other. Outside of this, the film has little to offer in terms of its oft-repeated tale of good v/s evil.
A huge shipment of cocaine worth Rs 900 crores is seized by Inspector Diana Joseph (Tabu) and her team. She hides the confiscated goods in the basement of the sturdy police station in Laalganj. Meanwhile, a dishonest NCB officer, Devraj Subramaniam (Gajraj Rao), informs one of the leaders of the Sikka gang, Ashwathama or Ashu (Deepak Dobriyal) that he is willing to share the location of the cocaine in return for a hefty sum of money. At the farewell party of IG Jayant Malik (Kiran Kumar), forty policemen get unconscious as their liquor is spiked by another policeman, Deep Singh (Lokesh Mittal), on Devraj’s instruction. Diana, on antibiotics, has not consumed the alcohol and now she has to get her ailing colleagues to a hospital that is eighty kilometres away. She seeks the help of a recently released convict, Bholaa (Ajay Devgn), on his way to the orphanage where his ten-year-old daughter Jyoti (Hirva Trivedi), whom he hasn’t met since birth, is staying. Though reluctant in the beginning, Bholaa agrees to help out. With the support of a caterer, Kadchi (Amir Khan), and his helpers, the passed-out bodies of the officers are loaded onto a truck. As Bholaa, Diana, and Kadchi head towards the hospital, a mole in Ashu’s gang informs Diana that the gang is heading towards the Laalganj police station to take back possession of the drugs. Diana appoints a newly transferred havaldar, Angad Yadav (Sanjay Mishra), to take control of the situation at Laalganj. As the night proceeds, bodies pile up, an innocent student loses his life, and mayhem ensues…
Bholaa begins straightaway with an action set piece, a thrilling enough chase and shootout between the Sikka gang and the police force on a highway. This sets the tone for further plentiful stylized action pieces drive the film’s narrative. The actual plot of the film in contrast is simplistic and devoid of any intricate plotting or intriguing twists and turns, which are driving forces of the thriller genre. The narrative ensures the protagonist is repeatedly confronted with an army of goons and through an elaborately staged fight sequence, we know that he will beat the crap out of them. And so on and so forth… Literally, nothing happens that is unexpected or unpredictable.
Devgn and his team of writers, Aamil Keeyan Khan, Ankush Singh, Sandeep Kewlani, and Shriidhar Dubey, make some digressions from the original source albeit not very successfully. Kaithi was a much more rooted film with attention to detail in terms of its characterizations. Bholaa fails in this regard. You can never get it out of your head that Devgn is a ‘Bollywood’ hero. An interesting touch is changing the gender of the police officer but sadly, the film is unable to exploit this alteration satisfyingly. Diana is just as helpless as Bijoy in Kaithi was and is totally dependent on Bholaa to help her out. Only in the end, when she discusses an incident from her past that has left her motherless with Bholaa, does the gender change works if only for a moment. While scenes concerning Bholaa and Jyoti have some emotional overtones, they are so few and sporadic that they fail to make the desired impact on the overall story of the film.
Kaithi was gutsy enough not to use songs to forward the narrative, using various musical themes instead so the music would have its own narrative within the film. Bholaa takes the road more often taken but fails to do much with the songs. Paan Dukaniya, with its gyrating moves by Raai Laxmi (earlier Laxmi Rai), looks more like an acrobatic exercise work out than a well-choreographed dance number. Nazar Lag Jayegi, which introduces us to Amala Paul, Bholaa’s wife, through a flashback, seems forcibly inserted to create an emotional back story, which Kaithi dispensed with. To top it all, in one of the action sequences, the remix of the classic song Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai from the classic Guide (1965) plays in the background even as Bholaa fights with the goons! Really?
The performances lift the film a notch or two. Ajay Devgn as the titular character makes sure that as a human incarnation of Lord Shiva, Bholaa not only smears the holy ash on his forehead but also combats his opponents with a trident. He performs the action scenes with agility, and delivers in the few emotional scenes he has. Tabu brings a physical sturdiness to her character with a convincing performance particularly in her action bits. Deepak Dobriyal as the cocaine-snorting, sadistic Ashwathama rises above the script and shines in a caricature-like character. The rest of the cast, comprised of veterans like Sanjay Mishra and Gajraj Rao, delivers their roles with conviction. Vineet Kumar as Nithari, a prisoner in Laalganj jail, sends a chill down one’s spine with his menacing looks and threatening dialogues.
The cinematography by Aseem Bajaj does enough visual stunts to meet the action-oriented demands of the script. At times, the camera frames the character with such proximity that it appears almost voyeuristic. There is also an excessive dependence on high-speed shots to accentuate the action scenes. Dharmendra Sharma’s editing tries to keep the film moving at a rapid pace but fails to build up the kinetic energy required within the action scenes. The VFX is a let down be it the bike chase scene to the artificially created waterfall at the end of the film. The background score by Ravi Basrur is expectedly ear shatteringly loud and it is used more as a medium to fill up the lack of of an effective sound design in the film.
Filled with enough clap-trap lines and escapist moments, Bholaa plays to the gallery. It ticks all the boxes to cater to audiences who consider cinema to be nothing more than a medium of entertainment, meant to be watched leaving their brains behind at home. Taking into consideration the current state of viewership and cinema literacy in our country, Bholaa has every chance of becoming a blockbuster amongst the masses, average though it is.
Hindi, Action, Drama, Color