True Review

True Review: Raja Natwarlal

True Review: Raja Natwarlal

by Niharika Puri August 29 2014, 2:35 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 14 secs

Critic’s ratings: 2.5 stars

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Paresh Rawal, Kay Kay Menon, Humaima Malick, Deepak Tijori.

Direction: Kunal Deshmukh

Produced: Siddharth Roy Kapur

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Duration: 2 hrs 21 mins

It may be easy to hate on an Emraan Hashmi film and his ‘serial kissing’ ways (an oft-repeated cliché) or have zero expectations from Raja Natwarlal. But should you ever head to the booking counter and the dimly lit hall for this one, you will be in for a pleasant surprise.

Conman Raja (Emraan Hashmi) goads his foster brother and partner-in-crime Raghav (Deepak Tijori) into netting some big game for more gain. So far, they have been pulling off minor deceptions including shuffling cards and running truant on restaurant bills. But when an elaborate con job worth 80 lakhs takes a catastrophic turn, Raja must seek help from reclusive trickster Yogi (Paresh Rawal), who resides in Dharamshala, to get even with the bad guys.

There is also a subplot of Raja’s bar dancing girlfriend Ziya (Humaima Malick), being harassed as she is by two corrupt police officers who want to retrieve the stolen loot. The angered antagonist who has been robbed is Vardha Yadav (Kay Kay Menon). And the angrier protagonist is baying for vengeance. An elaborate con job is set in place, the bigger question being… will the tycoon take the bait?

Let’s get first impressions out of the way first. Raja Natwarlal is better than one would expect it to be. It is certainly more intelligent, sophisticated (courtesy Kay Kay Menon), nuanced and well-enacted than the trailer makes it appear. The first half is absolutely well-crafted and racy, with some smart moments and sharp one-liners, some good ones coming from Yogi.

When Raja first approaches him for vengeance, wanting his pound of flesh, Yogi says in characteristic deadpan: “Toh Bandook mein goli rakho, seene mein himmat aur daal do.”

Yogi is also quite the teacher. A few tough lessons later he explains to Raja, “Kheenche hue kaan se milaa hua gyaan hamesha yaad rehta hai.”

The Dharamshala portion of the film is interesting, as is the montage where they gather the other members for the Big Con (sans back story perhaps since the characters add only to functionality and not the drama quotient).

It is when the action shifts to Cape Town, South Africa and quite abruptly back to Mumbai in the second half that things get a little complicated. And for a while, confusing. While the initial songs, though mediocre, carry the plot along, a romantic interlude post-interval takes a trip down to yawns-ville. Some additional backstory for Yogi and courting Yadav slows the plot down. Ziya’s conversations with Inspector Singh (Sumit Nijhawan) seem stretched, showing any significant consequence much later in the story.

There is a suspension of disbelief when it comes to con films, especially since the rag-tag bunch manage to pull off an extravagant sleight of hand, which seems a bit too organised to hold water. Overthink it not, however, and you will enjoy it. Television show enthusiasts may observe that the film borrows from the con genre tropes, notably from Hustle.

What keeps the proceedings afloat are otherwise tightly written sequences, lines, a few tense moments and an all-around solid cast (though Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub is wasted in a guest appearance). Despite a few reviews panning Pakistani import Humaima Malick, it must be said that she is a reasonable performer, who needs less censure and more films to prove her mettle.

Raja Natwarlal is the film that could break the dry spell that Bollywood is under when it comes to storytelling. It may not be the greatest, cleverest cinematic masterpiece, but it is possibly Emraan Hashmi’s best in some time. Kick your shoes off and let go. This one will not disappoint as a one-time watch.

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