Rowdy Rathore sees Akshay Kumar reviving his Khiladi standing as the uncrowned king of the action genre in Bollywood. He looks his absolute best in the film as he plays out the double roles of Vikram Rathore, the fearless and honest cop of fictional Devigarh (Bihar) with the handlebar moustache and Parkour moves and Shiva, the small time crook in Mumbai, also with a moustache, sans the handlebars, who makes you laugh at all his crafty one-liners.
The story starts with Shiva thieving and robbing in Mumbai with his friend and accomplice, innovatively named 2 G played by Paresh Ganatra till one day, Shiva falls for Priya, a Bihari girl (Sonakshi Sinha) visiting the city for a cousin’s wedding. Some very entertaining sequences and melodious song and dance routines take place soon after, like Chinta Ta Ta, in which Kareena Kapoor makes a very sexy, special appearance.
Chinta Ta Ta is the best track in the film. Prabhu Deva who has directed the film is also seen playing a small cameo as himself in the song. He decides to give up thieving and do his girl proud but if only life was that easy! His last con is one that cons him out of his thieving wits - Shiva is stranded with a little girl claiming she’s his daughter and he, her Papa, a very mysterious turn in the plot. It becomes even more baffling when he’s chased down by an angry mob of people trying to kill him. The chase is relentless even though the reason is still not quite known at this point in the film. The screenplay is replete with a number of unexpected turns and predictable come backs, but not without some terrific action scenes and brilliant cinematography by Santosh Thundiyil. Thundiyil’s work makes the rural setting of Devigarh come alive with the vibrant hues as does Mumbai’s commotion and chaos.
The story cuts to flashbacks driven by emotional drama that explain the missing bits in the puzzling action unfolding on screen. The good over evil formula is regurgitated, Prabhu Deva style, and the climax simply drags on endlessly, which is the case with most Bollywood films and Rowdy Rathore is no different.
The film’s style is more like the late 70s and early 80s which is the action packed, dhishum-dhishum era of Bollywood. The action of course, is far more slick and arduous, given Akshay performs all his stunts himself, but the language and the angst in the film is very reminiscent of that time period. Prabhu Deva has done a commendable job of Bollywoodising the South hit, Vikramarkudu (2006) of which Rowdy Rathore is a remake.
Rowdy Rathore lets Akshay play out his engaging comic side as well as his khiladi moves to the core. In both roles, he is flawless – the body language, the moustaches, the snarly humour, the restraint, the romantic side – he makes it all seem effortless in his portrayal. Sonakshi Sinha looks alluring in saris and shalwar-kameezes as the desi love interest, but she doesn’t quite cut it in the song and dance bits of the film, especially in the Chammak Challo Chail Chabeeli track.
It is very strange that although the film’s antagonists live in Bihar, they speak UP-style Hindi which is laced with thick, south Indian accents. Also, the word rowdy is used to describe Shiva in a way that is unfathomable - “Woh rowdy hai, rowdy” in a deep, menacing voice - like it were the mother of all words to describe hooliganism and roughnecks. The film is less rowdy, more gore actually.
In essaying both roles of the cop and the crook, Akshay’s wearing tee shirts from brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, Tommy Hilfiger and the Canadian brand, Roots in prominent scenes. Firstly, both characters would not know the brand Roots, even if they did buy the street knock offs of Hilfiger and A&F whose fakes are easily available all over India.
Rowdy Rathore has some catchy lines which will become de riguer in everyday, slang-heavy conversations in contemporary India like “Don’t angry me” or “You’re strongly welcome”. Akshay Kumar’s loyal audience will love Rowdy Rathore as they will get to see their favourite star back in action, flying off roofs and kicking butt. Sonakshi Sinha will possibly increase her fan following with this film, her second film after her debut in the Salman Khan smash hit Dabangg in 2010.