It is difficult to take Akshay Kumar seriously in anything but a comic role. His voice has always been unconventional for an action hero, and his once-famous martial arts skills were the only reason he stayed afloat for so long. Directors like Priyadarshan began to understand that the best way to use him is by letting the audience know that, despite his limited acting skills, he is a funny guy. His monotonous delivery worked wonders whenever he’d yell “Babu Bhaiya!” in Hera Pheri, and his strength remained situational humour, not cheap slapstick.
In Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara (OUATIMD), Akshay begins playing dreaded don Shoaib (essayed by Emraan in the first part) in the same vein, and gives us the impression that he is having a blast mouthing Rajat Aroraa’s excessively ridiculous one-liners with a constant smirk. With dialogue like “Mumbai Kum Kum se Kimi Katkar bann gayi hai”, he is not your everyday ‘mumblecore’ don. When he is not blowing smoke rings in slow-mo and snuffing lit cigarettes, he is constantly looking for other ways to spoof himself. It does not matter who this role is based on, because Akshay Kumar plays it as the hat-twirling cowboy that hilariously crotch-shot his way to glory in a scene from Om Shanti Om.
Midway through the film, though, our worst fears are confirmed. He was never spoofing himself, after all. This is evident from his sudden switch to a cranky lovelorn baby being denied his favorite toy. He tries very hard to sound ominous, and even succeed at times, but only when he is not speaking. He loves playing the bad guy, but it is a pity that the bad guy does not love playing him. See what I did there, Mr Aroraa?
The screenplay throws up a few surprises but on the whole, seems to be contrived only to bring about a dramatic face-off in the end. At times, the lines are so outrageously disconnected that it is entirely possible to assume that the don is even proposing a threesome to solve the love triangle. Imran Khan, apart from sounding like Kevin in Home Alone, spends most of his time wondering why his spectacularly fake moustache changes thickness whenever he faces a vibrant Sonakshi Sinha. There could be a message in there somewhere.
Sinha, in fact, walks away with most of the plaudits because she plays a rather unbelievable role – that of an ‘innocent’ upcoming actress Jasmine – with an endearing dumbness that almost makes you believe that she cannot smell blatant lecherousness even it came and slapped her. Which is what happens, eventually. In her final heated exchange with Akshay, she convinces us that she can act – mostly due to her quivering, screechy voice, that ends up sounding naturally desperate. She carries on from where she left off in Lootera, driving home a lesson for most actresses that seem to overestimate the worth of voice modulation during emotionally charged scenes.
Milan Luthria is now known as a technically proficient director, and his collaboration with ‘single-screen’ screenwriter Rajat Aroraa seems to have been commercially fruitful so far. But they will do well to remember that even their beloved ‘Silk’ met her doom while trying to fulfill her greatest goal: ‘Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment’.
Hindi, Action, Drama, Color