One doesn’t have a problem with a good old fashioned masala film as long as the masala-mix is done correctly to give you a great entertainer. If you have a song sequence, make sure it is a well-composed song that is choreographed and picturized in as chakachak a manner as possible, if you have an action sequence, go all out to make it a kick-ass one, if its emotions you’re after make sure you touch the heartstrings of the viewer and if you have a comedy track, then make sure it is bloody funny. Wanted fails and fails miserably on all these counts.
The film has a long history before its Hindi avatar. Made first in 2006 in Telugu as Pokiri by one of the most successful directors in Telugu cinema, Puri Jagannadh, and starring Mahesh Babu and Ileana D’Cruz, it was re-made by Prabhu Deva himself in 2007 in Tamil as Pokkiri starring Vijay and Asin. Both versions were super hits. Needless to say Boney Kapoor just had to buy the re-make rights to do it in Hindi with Prabhu Deva. Sadly, the Hindi version just doesn’t hold up well to the other two.
So following the original, the story goes like this. Radhe (Salman Khan) is a criminal in Mumbai who works only for money. During the inter-gang wars, he joins a gang run by Ghani Bhai (Prakash Raj), an international don. His life takes a dramatic turn when he falls in love with Jhanvi (Ayesha Takia), who works in a call centre He does not want to commit to her yet, but her charm draws him dangerously close to her. Jhanvi has other suitors – her fat landlord (Manoj Pahwa) and a dangerous and corrupt cop, Thalpade (Mahesh Manjrekar), who thinks he can do anything with her because he is cop. Jhanvi falls in love with Radhe and is shocked to find out he is a hardened gangster. Much as she tries to keep away from him, she cannot. Meanwhile, the Police commissioner (Govind Namdeo) is trying to clean up crime in Mumbai so Ghani Bhai kidnaps his daughter in retaliation. She inadvertanly tells Ghani Bhai that there is a mole in his gang who would destroy him and his entire gang. Ghani asks Thalpade to find out who he is. Thalpade finds out that the mole is the son of a former police officer (Vinod Khanna) and Ghani Bai kills him to get the undercover cop to reveal himself. No prizes for guessing who it is and how it all turns out in the end!
The basic problem with the film is in its execution. The screenplay is a series of set pieces – comedy, romance and action in turns, but most of these set pieces themselves don’t work. Barring the big plot twist, the odd scene in the developing romance between Salman Khan and Ayesha Takia and the occasional one with Prakash Raj working in its own corny way, nothing really holds your attention. The comedy track is unfunny, the action sequences needed to be far more innovative and go beyond numb inducing violence, tons of glass shattering (including through Mumbai local train windows without security bars and mesh!) and vegetable carts being destroyed and the less said about the songs and their picturizations the better. And oh yeah, Jhanvi says she works in a call-centre and we have to believe her since not one scene shows her in her place of work!
Even the performances fail to salvage the film. Salman Khan, playing the massy, larger-than-life hero, tries hard to hold up the film as does Prakash Raj doing the same role for the third time as he is there in the earlier Telugu and Tamil versions as well. However, adding the comic dimension to his characterization weakens him and doesn’t make him a strong enough villain for Salman to kill. Still, he does add some life to the sequences where he is arrested and does everything to avoid going to sleep as orders are to beat him up if he does so. Ayesha Takia seems to be strangely off colour, Govind Namdeo has his moments, Vinod Khanna is wasted while Mahesh Manjrekar hams and hams till it hurts. The three star guest appearances too add nothing to the film.
Technically, the film is a letdown be it the camerawork, the jerky editing and in particular, the practically tuneless songs, which are terrible and to make matters worse, are choreographed and picturized most unimaginatively. The background music is overblown and jarring to say the least.
All in all, Wanted fails badly in being the entertainer it wanted to be.
Hindi, Action, Drama, Color