If you’ve watched Abbas-Mustan’s previous directorial ventures, you know that they aren’t exactly the pride and joy of Bollywood as far as direction goes. So I didn’t rush to the theater with great expectations, and I must say that the film turned out pretty much as I thought it would. Thus it had zero character development, almost no logic, desultory conversation and some very unfunny lines passed off as humor.
The way this film has been hyped, it looked like Dhoom3 and then some. Yes, it’s got quite a few car chases, hip-swinging songs, bomb blasts, but it doesn’t quite get there. It’s actually better than Dhoom2 story-wise, and by that I mean that it HAS a story, as compared to D2’s almost non-existent one. However the story is ultra-complicated, lots of twists and turns, lots of two-faced characters, betrayals and turn-coats. You can’t tell a friend from a foe, which you’d think would herald a good thriller, but Abbas-Mastan’s inept handling makes short shrift of that notion.
The whole deal is the story of two brothers, the elder Ranveer (Saif) doting on the younger Rajiv (Akshaye). However two-faced Rajiv has a massive chip on his shoulder – Papa never liked him as much, and hence he hates Ranveer’s guts, but will not say so. Instead he plots secretly to bring about Ranveer’s death and get his grubby hands on his $100 million insurance policy. Assisting him in this quest is model Sonia (Bipasha) who’s risen from an orphanage, to dreams of big money. Both Ranveer and Rajiv are sweet on Sonia. In love with Ranveer is his secretary Sophia (Katrina), but he has eyes only for Sonia. Thrown into this mix are another pair – Inspector RD (Robert D’Souza) and his dumb secretary Mini (Sameera), doing the “Karamchand-Kitty” act.
So, essentially there are 5 main characters; the 6th – Sameera’s in inconsequential, and extremely annoying. All the 6 characters are paper-thin, not a shred of believability is left after Abbas-Mastan are done with their work. I consider Saif, Akshaye and Anil reasonably able actors, but given their haphazardly put together roles and their inane dialogues, it’s not surprising that they perform well under par. Akshaye is the best (and that’s a relative term) of the lot, but then Akshaye always does petulance well.
Neither Katrina or Bipasha, as gorgeous as they are, can act to save their lives. Katrina actually appears to believe that smiling IS acting, which is probably why she does it a lot. Smiling that is. Bipasha is a known quantity, and uses her handy one-glassy-expression-for-all-emotions technique. Sameera who can act, is given the weak role that requires none.
The characters such as they are, lead fairly absurd, one-dimensional lives. They appear to have a few traits we know about, and the audience is expected to subsist on this diet of very hard-to-believe, hollowed out, slapdash set of characters. Screenplay is extremely poor, and direction while average needs to push the pace a little. It ain’t no thriller if it takes forever.
The film starts off in South Africa, at the Durban Cup, where horse stud farm owner Ranveer is losing his races, and his money. We are treated to a brief intro to the characters of the film via a voice-over by Anil Kapoor (he as Inspector RD actually comes in only post-intermission), and his narration goes on for quite a while. Now whenever a director has to employ a narrator to actually tell us about the characters and their traits, instead of showing us by letting them speak and emote, it’s a sign that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Very true in this case, because Abbas-Mastan haven’t a clue.
The film has very good music, set to entirely inappropriate and weirdly placed songs. Lush dance numbers, complete with gyrating extras, spring up at the drop of a hat. Sophia and Ranveer go on a business trip, and manage to squeeze out a song while there. Ranveer tells Sophia that she’s a good friend, when she’s fishing for a compliment, and she breaks out into a song asking him to “Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me”.
One does not speak of Abbas-Mastan and quality in the same breath, but one must note that the story has huge, gaping holes. I do not talk of ordinary holes, as in the mortal film-viewer’s wonderment at getting from Point A to Point Z, without traversing through Points B through Y; I talk of gaping holes into which a continent the size of Asia could submerge and disappear wholly from view. And then there are the smaller mishaps – like Ranveer talking of Dispirin to cure hang-overs, and call me picky, but why in South Africa are they using Dispirin, and not a local brand of medicine ? But then this is Bollywood folks – we are good on locales, and poor on details.
This was not an entirely un-redeemable plot. In the hands of a more able director, with enough emphasis on quality, characterization, and details this could have been a good film. Saddled with Abbas-Mastan’s myopia and desire to churn out a worthy successor to Dhoom2, this film fails massively. If you liked Dhoom2, you’ll probably find "Race" an adequate entertainer. However, if like me, you thought that D2 was the pits, best keep away from this disaster.