An aimless youngster is working as a drug runner when he falls a beautiful, educated woman at first sight. In order to win her love, he takes on his former employer, to eliminate the insidious drug cartel.
If any significant audience still exists for the blustery B-movie tropes of '80s Bollywood action cheapies, I ask that you revisit 'classics’ from the period via your VHS collection and not inspire filmmakers like Prabhudheva to concoct trash like R. Rajkumar.
Taking on titular leading man duties is Shahid Kapoor, who appears suitably buff in his many shirtless scenes. We meet the weary traveller as he emerges from the dark and stumbles into a gun battle between warring drug cartels in the regional town of Dhartipur. At the height of the gunplay, he sees the girl of his dreams, Chanda (Sonakshi Sinha, terribly undervalued and misused by her director), whom he saves from certain death.
Rajkumar (the errant 'R’ apparently stood for 'Rambo’ in early drafts before rights issues turned it into 'Romeo’) infiltrates the drug empire of Shivraj (an okay Sonu Sood) who takes advantage of the young man’s likeability, forcing him to befriend and spy upon criminal rival, Parmar (veteran character actor Ashish Vidyarthi). When a truce is formed between the narcotics lords with Chanda offered up as currency, the three key players come into passion-fuelled conflict. Though not particularly original (it seems every second Bollywood entrant nowadays is a love triangle/revenge fantasy/smalltown story), the plotting is serviceable. It is in the execution that the director stumbles badly.
A ridiculous stew of lame-brained slapstick, bone-crunching violence and merciless mugging, all set to a bludgeoning musical score by repeat aural offender Pritam Chakraborty, R"¦ Rajkumar is 146 minutes of amped-up, dumbed-down clichés. They hail from a time when India’s movie-going masses were determined to see local versions of Van Damme, Arnie and Sly Stallone, monosyllabic superheroes whose latest heroic bloodbaths were flooding the home video market worldwide.
But that was then, this is now, and the mainstream audience has moved passed such one-note screen heroism. Sharing writing credits with three other scribes (perhaps the first evidence of the overkill that would befall the production), Prabhudheva may have intended to craft a homage to the influential films of his youth. But his film is so steeped in an uncomfortable mix of modern film-making gimmickry and anachronistic posturing and attitudes, that it gives the impression of being utterly rudderless; shifts in tone from scene to scene are so pronounced, trying to engage with the disparate elements of action, comedy or romance proves entirely futile.
The response to the film in its homeland has been particularly scathing; reviewers have gone after the film with a lethal pen ('Senseless, bad filmmaking" said the popular Zee News; The Financial Express was not so subtle, stating 'The worst film of the year"). It may well prove to be the final roll of the dice for the brutish action-hero archetype of past decades, at least as far as the Indian film industry is concerned. Given the battering his cast and the audience take at the hands of Prabhudheva, we could all use the break.