In '70s and '80s Calcutta, two refugees come together, first as friends then as standover men and gun couriers in the criminal underworld. Together, they battle
From the bulging, glistening pectoral muscles of Gunday’s anti-heroic stars to the curvaceous charms of its leading lady, there is nothing subtle about Ali Abbas Zafar’s film. Viewers with increasing concerns that Bollywood’s recent action/comedies are far too reliant on tiresome conventions will see this as further proof; for those simply looking for escapism of the highest order, this romp should do just fine.
Zafar utilises the full talents of his wonderfully matched stars
Yet another modern nod to masala cinema tropes of the late '70s/early '80s, Zafar’s daft but delirious crowd-pleaser offers up at least a dozen clear opportunities for ridicule. But the overall cheesiness of the plotting and boisterous approach to line delivery is made palatable by an exceptional degree of technical skill and the engaging energy of its two stars, the excursion of which accounts for the aforementioned sweaty sheen that glimmers from their waxed, constantly-exposed upper torsos.
Said bods belong to lifelong friends Bikram (Ranveer Singh) and Bala (Arjun Kapoor), orphans who found each other as wee lads when they were both left stranded during the division of boundaries that led to the formation of Bangladesh. After their impenetrable kinship is established is the entertaining prologue, the post-credit narrative jumps to Calcutta in the 1980s when the pair have established themselves as formidable, Robin Hood-like underworld figures.
The brotherhood soon finds itself threatened by two equally strong personalities: a gritty and determined new Assistant Police Commissioner (the respected Irrfan Khan, adding weight to the otherwise gravitas-free proceedings) who’s not above breaking a few rules to bring down their crime empire; and exotic cabaret dancer Nandita (Priyanka Chopra, cast to be utterly radiant and little else), whose chance meeting with Bikram and Bala sets in motion a divisive jealousy.
Confidently following up his 2011 debut Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Zafar ensures all the elements that mainstream audiences expect are on display in spades. This includes widescreen panoramas that capture every timber-cracking blow of its elaborate fight sequences (occasionally undone by an overreliance upon slow-motion trickery); giggly rom-com antics between the tough guys when they’re reduced to bumbling courters in the presence of Chopra’s pouty, doe-eyed love interest; a thunderous, ever-present score (provided by Sohail Sen); and a careening story arc that allows for the bond of friendship and loyalty to emerge against all odds.
Most importantly, Zafar utilises the full talents of his wonderfully matched stars. Ranveer Singh’s accentuated facial features – his broad smile, big nose, mass of wavy hair and verandah-like brow – could become weapons of shameless mugging and unintentional, but Singh is a skilled performer. Less so is Kapoor, whose generic matinee idol charms suit the intensity of the many action sequences moreso than the comedy schtick or melodrama. But together, their chemistry works.
The dance numbers are staged with appropriate enthusiasm by contributors, both in front of and behind the camera. Chopra’s burlesque-themed cabaret act is something to behold, and her rendition of 'Asalam e Ishquim’ is certain to be downloaded heavily by fans.