With all the failed attempts by Indian directors to make an enjoyable, all-encompassing, “masala” entertainer, it’s refreshing to see one filmmaker finally get things more right than wrong. Harry Baweja’s “Qayamat” isn’t a great film, but it’s definitely an enthralling and enjoyable one with enough frivolous fun to satiate any need for mindless entertainment.
“Qayamat” steals its premise from Micheal Bay’s Hollywood offering, “The Rock,” but adds a couple of twists to the plot. A group of demented arms traffickers Abbas (Sanjay Kapoor), Ali (Arbaaz Khan), and Laila (Isha Koppikar), hijack a maximum security prison just outside of the heart of Mumbai. They put forth an ultimatum to the Indian government, and threaten to launch a missile containing a deadly virus strain on Mumbai if their demands aren’t met.
The government deploys CBI officer Akram Sheikh (Suneil Shetty) to diffuse the situation, but Sheikh quickly realizes that he won’t be able to infiltrate the prison. In order to accomplish this goal, he will need the assistance of an ex-con, Rachit (Ajay Devgan). While Sheikh works on convincing Rachit to help, a scientist (Aashish Chowdhry) works on a vaccine to disarm the virus strain. How the entire situation is resolved forms the climax of this joy ride of a film.
Baweja has infused the film with an indulgent sense of campy glee that is nearly impossible to resist. The story unfolds at a nice pace, allowing for both adequate character development and some trademark Bollywood-style fun. Each of the main characters has an obligatory, cheesy, but charming love story that inspires them to battle the terrorist threat against the city. Once the characters’ backgrounds are fleshed out, and the battle lines are drawn, its nonstop action as the film hurtles full-speed towards its thoroughly predictable conclusion.
How could a thriller with a predictable ending earn such a hearty recommendation? This is the kind of film where the absurdity unfolding on screen is so deliciously over-the-top, that the direction the story takes doesn’t really hinder the amount of fun to be had from watching the film.
The film’s greatest strength is that it takes the most preposterous and enjoyable elements offered sparingly in other commercial films, and serve them up in spades.
Take, for example, the way in which the film’s sensational main character is presented. Devgan’s Rachit has a dark, menacing quality about him that makes him all the more interesting and appealing to watch and root for; he’s certainly much more engaging a character than the smiling, upright, one-dimensional characters crowding the Bollywood commercial film scene today. Most of the credit for this belongs not to the writer or director, but to Ajay Devgan himself; he hits all the right notes at all the right times. His performance is exactly the kind of crowd-pleasing tour-de-force that is needed to carry a film like this. Without uttering a line of dialog, he communicates a world of moods and emotions near effortlessly. There are very few actors in India today who could’ve pulled off the “ex-con with a heart of gold” role with as much élan and charisma as Devgan has in this film.
And there is still plenty more fun in the film beyond Devgan’s character and performance. All of the action in the film is as bombastic and outrageous as one can possibly imagine. The heroes employ everything from rocket launchers to Matrix-inspired kung fu to subdue the enemy, and all the action is shot and edited in a unique kinetic style by music-video director Sanjay F. Gupta. Action fans will not be disappointed.
Mr. Gupta does an equally praiseworthy job shooting the film’s song sequences. The film’s soundtrack by Nadeem-Shravan is just slightly above average, but comes off very well on screen because of some great visuals and deft editing. The fact that in Isha Koppikar, Riya Sen, and Neha Dhupia, Harry Baweja has found three lethal ladies with near immeasurable sex-appeal, helps a lot. These three definitely succeed in making the film as sexy as it is sleek, and Koppikar actually turns in a remarkably good performance. Her spicy, over-the-top antics have just the lack of restraint to make her outright irresistible in her role.
It’s too bad that most of the other actors in the film don’t exhibit the same flair for performance. Sanjay Kapoor, Arbaaz Khan, and Chunky Pandey all fail to convincingly portray their roles, inspiring frustration rather than fear with their noisy performances. Suneil Shetty proves why Ajay Devgan is such an amazing actor; Shetty screams patriotic lines at the top of his lungs throughout the climax of the film while Devgan remains silent, but Devgan effortlessly dominates all the attention. Shetty’s one-note performance just isn’t effective enough to be interesting. Ditto for the lackluster work put in by newcomers Neha Dhupia and Aashish Chowdhry. Riya Sen registers something of an impact, but her role is criminally short in duration.
“Qayamat” offers a thrill ride worth taking. Whether it’s the silly dramatics, the ludicrous action, or the eye-catching visuals, there’s just something about this film’s presentation that makes it undeniably entertaining. As long as you don’t take it seriously, there’s a lot of fun to be had watching this musical love story set against the backdrop of a biological weapons threat against a densely populated city.