A new-school crime drama with a tried and tested old-school double role plot line is saved by clever writing and superior acting by Arjun Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and Prithviraj, among others
A well scripted cop drama is always a good watch. Laced with slick values, strong dialogues, multiple characters and a clever story that keeps you guessing, these weave their plots tight and leave you with that ‘all-ends-tied-up’ kind of a feeling. Some of the more popular movies of this kind that come to mind are The Departed, Ek Haseena Thi and Johnny Gaddar. Aurangzeb too is a film that follows that thought process, but is spliced with the 70s favourite: the double role. And though it comes real close to being a high-gloss cop drama, it fails to hit the nail on the head and ends up being a bland but well written film which gives you such clean closure that you crave an open end somewhere….anywhere!
Yashvardhan (Jackie) is a gangster who got away with his crimes, back in the day. Anupam Kher, a cop was leading the investigation against him in connivance with the gangster’s wife (Tanvi Azmi), but things did not work out as planned. At the end of the non-case against Yashvardhan, Anupam Kher is left with the gangster’s wife and his twin sons Ajay and Vishal (Arjun Kapoor) . He hides one son and the wife – whom he has begun to love – and passes it off as a botched encounter for which he takes the entire blame. Suspended from the police force, Kher has a tough time for about a year, caught between the love for his real family and son Arya (Prithviraj), and his adopted wife and son; just before he dies, he reveals his secret to Arya.
Twenty years later, everything has changed. Yashvardhan is a legitimate businessman who runs a rogue real estate empire in connivance with a power broker, Amrita Singh. His young son Ajay has grown up to be a real rascal. The 27-year-old is a reckless and violent sociopath who is more trouble to his fathers’ business than he is worth. Enter Rishi Kapoor, police commissioner and brother of dead cop Anupam Kher. Anupam’s real son has grown up to become an ACP who, along with his uncle the commissioner, decides to clear his father’s name and bring down Yashvardhan’s criminal empire. This is where the switcheroo comes into play. Prithviraj and Rishi Kapoor replace Ajay with the mild mannered Vishal, the child brought up by Tanvi. And as Vishal climbs up the ladder in his father’s business, the stakes rise as the bodies fall; the game that was already dirty and rigged from the start turns bloody.
At its heart, Aurangzeb is Trishul. It is that old Bollywood story of long lost twins being played out in a parallel universe, but it is a tad more mature and evolved than its 70s predecessor. It is a story of a clan of cops vs a clan of gangsters. What’s different here is the rainbow of grey shades that various characters play. No one is clean, and the ones who are left clean will at some point become dirty, as murder creeps into their minds.
Arjun Kapoor delivers a convincing performance as the cocky, rich hooligan and the prodigal son who is brought back into the game to finish what his father started, but he remains confined to acting as a hero. His grey is a darker shade and his acting just a bit louder than is convincing. Yet, the story cuts a bit close to the bone for him and perhaps that elevates the emotional quality of his performance. But the real revelation here is Prithviraj. In his second Hindi film, he shows what he is capable of, given a good role. As a cop, Prithvi is bang on. Sure, playing a policeman for the seventeenth time in his career may be a bit repetitive for his fans, but he is a rock on which this movie stands. Rishi Kapoor, a veteran of the screen, elevates the scene whenever he is present. Jackie Shroff shows that he still has it in him to play a stylish character, without losing its humanity. Another great performance by him as a gangster after Aaranya Kaandam! We really wish there were more such roles for Shroff to play in Hindi films. Sasheh’s role is as brief as her wardrobe, but she carries it convincingly. With multiple story lines, there are too many characters, though each one gives a convincing performance. And then there is Sikander Kher, who is an oddity with a story that begs an ending!
Overall, Aurangzeb is a tightly written, well researched drama that demands more mature treatment and little more complexity. A slick new-age cop drama masquerading as a big commercial film, it is among the finer dramas made in Bollywood in recent times. Atul Sabharwal indeed seems to have a longer innings to play in Bollywood that we can look forward to.
Reviewed by Reza Noorani
**** Very good