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It's cool in the underworld

Suparn Verma

Nagarjuna, Sonali Bendre and Akshay Kumar in Angaaray. Click for bigger pic!
The Bombay gangsters have forever fascinated Bollywood. Barring a few films that managed to put its finger on the pulse of the underworld, the rest have all had a simple solution -- knock off the villain and there's no difference anymore between hell and heaven anymore.

Mahesh Bhatt's Angaaray is no different. The basic theme of the film blends those of State of Grace and Sleepers. That, in itself, is an interesting premise. Above all, it gives the director a strong storyline to work on. And, no question, Bhatt does try. Too hard.

The film sets off to a brisk start, with Inspector Amar (Akshay Kumar) hopping off a helicopter to the terrace of a 22-floor building. Having warmed up, he proceeds to leap off the building itself. If you doubt that he's taking the quick way into the underworld that he's supposed to infiltrate, you may be wrong. But infiltration is the job he's been asked to do.

Part I of the Real Video clip
Part II of the Real Video clip
The goons have been going on a killing spree to scare people into paying extortion money. And it's his job to see how it can be stopped.

Amar, it appears, was a juvenile delinquent who was hustled off to reform school after killing a rival black marketeer. The boy comes out squeaky clean, save for this odd tendency to jump off high places.

He returns to the mean streets where he grew up and catches up with old pals Raja (Nagarjuna), Jaggu (Paresh Rawal) and Surya (Irfan Kamal). He finds his childhood sweetheart Pooja (Pooja Bhatt) jigging away in the night club. Mohan Kapoor, underworld ganglord Lala (Gulshan Grover)'s brother lusts after her.

Gulshan Grover in Angaaray. Click for bigger pic!
Raja and Surya are hired killers for Lala and Jaggu is his hatchet man. Roma (Sonali Bendre) plays the sexy moll who has got one idea carefully slotted in her head -- to get Raja to marry her.

A song or two later, one with flashback scenes that hark back to Sleepers, Amar finally meets Lala.

Then the film meanders along that old, old path, on which the hero tries to get his buddies to surrender and reform. After a lot of melodrama comes the climax, muffled in the gutters -- some conservancy problem keeps them dry throughout -- that the baddies liberally pepper with Molotov cocktails.

The computer-generated fire in the tunnels is cool. So cool, in fact, that there isn't any smoke -- you must know that old one, don't you, no smoke, no fire and suchlike? And though the actors cough a lot, there isn't any soot either. Could have put it down to the dank atmosphere if there had been some water there. So we put it down to bronchitis, wot?

Click for bigger pic!
If you would like to see how it really ought to be done, catch up with the Hollywood dud Volcano. And if this is where the underworld resides, give me the Hilton anytime.

The songs in the film are quite hummable though the picturisation of Tanha Tanha strives to bring down the average quality of the film. So when the film finally seems to have gained some balance comes this scene where fluorescent red, yellow and green pipes vie for attention in a tunnel. Then there's a basti that looks as fake as Grover's white wig.

Akshay Kumar performs all of his own stunts, and some of them are really well done. Nagarjuna's screen presence holds you though you wish he wouldn't say "Klaaas". That's actually Khalaas (finished). And he says that with nauseating relish every time he kills sometime. Sonali oozes sex appeal and is good in parts -- and you know which ones. The talented Pooja hams through her emotional scenes, but is impressive elsewhere -- and you know where.

Akshay Kumar in Angaaray. Click for bigger pic!
Gulshan Grover, who plays the don, has this penchant of wearing his whole wardrobe of black gowns together. Gets cold, we note, in the underworld. And he has this irritating habit of humming till has to rasp out instructions.

Paresh Rawal's performance as Raja's brother who betrays their friend Surya to save his own skin lacks conviction. The role had promise, but the spirit was evidently weak.

Mahesh Bhatt's penchant for modelling his stories on Hollywood blockbusters is well known. This time he's opted for Hollywood films that didn't work. Maybe the re-mix will.

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