By Ravina Rawal
Kingship knows no kinship.
Ruler of the Mughal Empire for 49 years, the historical Aurangzeb snatched the richest throne in the world in 1658, after imprisoning both his father Shah Jahan and brother, Murad.
In Atul Sabharwal’s movie, the fight is for the real estate throne. Yashwardhan Singh (Jackie Shroff) is a real estate mogul in Gurgaon, known for running his empire unscrupulously behind the screen of legitimate businesses. However, no one has been able to collect enough evidence for him to be taken down. A family of policemen, including Ravikanth (Rishi Kapoor), his son Dev (Sikander Kher) and nephew Arya (Prithviraj Sukumaran), also hold him responsible for ousting Ravikanth’s brother, Vijaykanth (Anupam Kher) from the police force. After Vijaykanth dies, the law enforcement team decidet hey're going to destroy Singh and his son, and thus remove the stain tainting Vijaykanth’s reputation.
This takedown could have been very tricky were it not for the convenience of having a set of estranged identical twin brothers, Ajay and Vishal (Arjun Kapoor in a double role), handy. These two are Yashwardhan’s sons, born to his runaway wife who is also Vijaykanth’s lover Veera (Tanvi Azmi). In good filmi tradition, each parent gets one son so Ajay has been brought up by the dreaded tycoon while Vishal grew up with his mother and Vijaykanth.
This means the boys have grown up with starkly different facial hair and life choices; but not so different that they can't be mistaken for one another. The cops kidnap Ajay and torture him in the hope that he will spill his father’s dirty secrets. Even though Vishal had no idea there was a Xerox version of himself floating around, he is sent to replace Ajay and work as a police informant. This he manages with fabulous ease and in no time, Vishal's snuggled into Ajay’s life — at home, in the office with his father and even with Ajay's girlfriend (Sashaa Agha). The innocent, clean-shaven, do-gooder has no trouble mimicking bad boy Ajay’s debauched way of life, behavioural nuances and personality. Meanwhile, the cops realise beating and threatening Ajay is doing nothing to crack the roguish lad.
The ensuing battle between a family of policemen and a family of gangsters is long and complicated, unfolding over almost three hours and not allowing for any loo or snack-bar breaks outside of the interval. Nothing is as it seems, no one can be trusted, and plans are changing all the time. During the course of the movie, different characters take turns channeling their inner Aurangzeb.
Despite a full-bodied story, impressive cast and largely effective performances, Aurangzeb underwhelms. Rishi Kapoor does a marvellous job with his character and Arjun Kapoor manages to hold his own for the most part. As a lean, mean gangster machine, he's distinctly Ishaqzaade-esque. We’re also surprisingly happy to see Jackie Shroff in action again — even though he looks exhausted — and the supporting actors, including Deepti Naval, Swara Bhaskar and Amrita Singh all play out their bits with conviction.
So what went wrong? Too many characters, too little exploration, many loopholes, very little emotional connect. Aurangzeb is a story of potentially epic proportions (and near-epic run time), but it struggles to be coherent and its final conclusion is unable to match the build-up and premise. Lower your expectations when you enter the cinema hall and this Yash Raj Films production may still be worth your time.