Bodyguard: All Body, No Soul?
By MovieTalkies.com, 31 August 2011
It might be quite redundant to say this, but over the past years, Salman Khan has crafted a unique brand identity for himself, playing virtually invincible heroes, who even stretch the laws of physics, in films like 'Wanted' and 'Dabangg'. So far, they've worked well for him, with audiences lapping it all up, and indeed, begging for more. The question, though, is, how far can the grand Bhaijaan stretch his brand value and still hit gold at the box-office?
With his latest release, 'Bodyguard', Salman seems to be testing the waters to answer that question. This is a middling affair, really, with a plot that's a shade less weak than his last, 'Ready', and an action hero in bodyguard Lovely Singh who is a bit less bombastic than Chulbul Pandey in 'Dabangg'. What the film does have going for it, and this is the biggest factor in making the film a sure shot success, is the sheer screen presence that Salman brings along, as willing to beat up baddies as he is to poke fun at himself. As the ultra professional Lovely Singh, whose only request is that you don't do him any favours ('mujh pe ek ehsaan karna, ki mujh pe koi ehsaan mat karna'), Salman is at his endearing best, as much a buffoon as he is brawny, and an absolute darling for the audiences.
That said, if you're looking for a coherent plot, perhaps you should skip this one. Malayalam script writer and director, Siddique Lal, who also directed the 2010 original Southern version of the film, pens and helms this affair too. The story revolves around the heroic Lovely Singh (Salman Khan), who virtually worships a village 'rana' called Sartaj Singh (Raj Babbar) for saving his mother in an accident years ago. When Sartaj's enemies (Mahesh Manjrekar and co.) threaten the life of his daughter Divya (Kareena Kapoor), he calls upon Lovely Singh to be her titular bodyguard, even having him follow her to college to guard her. Divya, along with her friend, played by Hazel Keech, find the arrangement unbearable, and proceed to distract him from duty by calling him up from a 'private number' and pose as a girl named Chhaya, madly in love with him. While initially, Lovely is irritated by it, he soon finds himself falling in love with the voice on the phone, and when Lovely saves Divya from a bunch of villainous goons, she too gives in to true love, though Lovely still doesn't know that she is the one posing as Chhaya. However, soon, a new foe (Aditya Pancholi), enters the scene and muddies things up, only to have Lovely kick his behind right and proper. Things still aren't fine though, as Sartaj now believes that Lovely is going to elope with Divya, and goes to stop him. Cue a 'kuch kuch hota hai' twist, and Lovely and Divya get the happy ending they deserve.
If all of that sounds convoluted to you, be assured that it is. Plot-holes like why a professional like Lovely Singh gets flummoxed by a simple phone call, or why he would so easily get caught in the twist at the end are never addressed, except for notching it up to his 'innocence'. Sartaj's reason for enmity with Manjrekar & co. also go unaddressed, while the central plot about Lovely, Divya and their private number, are stretched on endlessly, just for gags. Tsunami Singh, played by debutant Rajat Rawail, is also an atrocity that the audience is 'treated' to, his brand of 'Johnny Lever' type comedy sorely outmoded and anachronistic.
However, the film's saving grace is the central pairing between Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor. While their last outing together, in 'Main Aur Mrs.Khanna' was roundly rejected by audiences, here, it works wonders, and their chemistry together is palpable on screen. While Salman is clearly in his comfort zone as Lovely Singh, Kareena too is in fine form, channelling her 'Jab We Met' charm as Divya, and looking ravishing while at it.
The same can't be said, sadly, for any of the other performances here. Raj Babbar is uniformly hammy in all scenes, while Hazel Keech is content to hang around in the background in most of her scenes with Kareena. Mahesh Manjrekar, Aditya Panscholi and others get just enough screen time here to be virtually invisible. Instead, the rotund Rajat Rawail literally hogs the screen in unfunny 'comedy' scenes that could have... no, should have been avoided.
In the technical department, the film's strength comes from its action director and Salman regular, FEFSI Vijayan, who has already picked up two Filmfare awards for his action direction in 'Wanted' and 'Dabangg'. With some super-slick action sequences, moving through slow-motion, bullet time and more, woven around the invincible Khan, Vijayan scores big here, and is in line for a third award, perhaps.
Musically too, the film is a triumph; a triumphant return for Himesh Reshammiya in to the Salman camp. While the melodious 'teri meri' could get stuck in your head, 'desi beat' and 'Bodyguard', also capture an essentially Sallu sound to great effect.
Perhaps, one can conclude, that 'Bodyguard' fails on account of a convoluted, weak script. But, with Salman Khan, and the cult of personality that he commands, as its headlining act, 'Bodyguard' is one of those inexplicable hits that you can chalk up to 'bhaijaan', what they would politely call a 'pure entertainer'. While Salman is unabashed about his focus on delivering an 'experience' rather than a story, our advice is that if you must, then ignore the story, hoot when Sallu's in action mode, and catch this one at a single screener's front row.