Ten minutes into Sooryavanshi, we know we are back in Rohit Shetty’s cop universe. RDX! Cars being blown up! And our Hero Ki Entry as Veer Sooryvanshi (Akshay Kumar), the best of Mumbai police, slo mo-ing into the frame, crisp khakis and snappy Raybans to the fore, gearing up to fight the Bad Guys aka Lashkar aka Muslim Terrorists.
Good guys. Bad guys. Maratha pride. Aaaaand action. There really is no need for anything else in Planet Shetty, but given that the dewlaps under Sooryavanshi’s chin are clearly visible, a semblance of a plot is handed out as a prop: 1000 kgs of deadly explosives were brought into India in 1993 and only 400 kgs were used in the Mumbai blasts, so where is the remaining? Our brave cop is also given a beauteous wife (Katrina Kaif), a child, and a song-and-dance-in-the-rain sequence, just to pad up the two-and-a-half hours of run time. The rest is given over to Terrorist Chief (Jackie Shroff) master-minding a repeat of the 1993 blasts, and a sleeper cell which is dog whistled into action. ‘Khabardaar, Mumbai phir se khatre mein hain!’
This much-awaited Rohit Shetty actioner, meant to release in March 2020, has ridden out two lockdowns through the pandemic, and is out in theatres this week. But is this your blockbuster Diwali gift from Bollywood? Much has changed, not least of which is our having turned our gadgets into a movie hall. Net net, is ‘Sooryavanshi’ worth getting into the movie halls for? I’m conflicted, good people, and here’s why: first off, there’s a bit too much clunky emotion shoved in between the action (terrorists also have families; tears are spilled when offspring are offed; mothers’ graves are to be visited, because after all, mothers are mothers, no?). And then, which is even more of a bummer, there’s too much Akshay, not enough Ajay and Ranveer.
All those brimming eyes, and sentimental lines about ‘santaan’ and ‘shaheedi’. Oh please. A Rohit Shetty flick is meant to deliver non-stop rat-a-tat, risible dialogue, and our heroes being invincible as the bad guys go flying in the air.
We not only get rocky marital relationships and weepy lectures on family values, but also a film taking pains to dilute its othering (those bad bad Muslim jihadis) by giving us good Musalmaans who are patriots. We love our Kalams, see, not those murderous Kasabs. Is the director being expedient? Or is he valiantly flying a flag for Bollywood, which with its lip service to a crumbling syncretic India, is perhaps the only place left where we can hear ‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isaai’ in one sentence. Even if it is used as a ‘jumla’, good people, I sat up, took note, and cheered. What will new India, and new Indians do, though, when this goes out and is heard, out loud and proud?
Meanwhile, Simmba (Ranveer Singh), when he does bother to show up, all slicked hair and spiffy moustache, gets to call Sooryavanshi and Singham (Ajay Devgn, who also makes a late entry) ‘puraana chawal’, which prompts the latter to call Simmba a ‘bachcha’. We crack a smile. This is what we are there for. Finally, finally, with the trio all going bang-bang, the movie gives us what it promises, three for the price of one. But come on, after making us wait for so long? Yes, we know that Messers Bajirao and Bhalerao have ‘extended cameos’. But still, I can’t help feeling cheated.
Sooryavanshi movie cast: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Jaaved Jafferi, Jackie Shroff, Nikitin Dheer, Abhimanyu Singh, Gulshan Grover, Kumud Mishra, Ajay Devgn, Ranveer Singh
Sooryavanshi movie director: Rohit Shetty
Sooryavanshi movie rating: 2 stars