As I sat through Subhash Ghai’s latest offering, an impassive vendetta flick masquerading as meaningful propaganda in an empty suburban theatre of Mumbai for nearly two and half hours, I looked at my watch, empty notepad (I like to scribble notes while reviewing a film) and recalled the deafening applause and giddy excitement surrounding Lakhan’s entry or Raju-Veeru’s thundering verbosity inside the once-packed hall.
Kaanchi, The Unbreakable, Ghai asserts, as if signifying an indomitable spirit that refuses to be disheartened by the fiasco of his last few films or resent losing his showman title to someone else; has the makings of a perfect Madhur Bhandarkar script but the wounds of Yaadein, Kisna, Yuvvraaj and, now, Kaanchi, run too deep to root for this *hero* past his prime.
In one of the scenes, Mithun Chakraborty (Hold on; are those prosthetic cheeks, Mithun da?) tells Rishi Kapoor, “Aap bahut loud ho jaate hain.” But that’s how I am. I can’t be a hypocrite, the portly Kapoor argues.
Ghai could be very well talking about himself. He’s never been much for subtlety. What one can expect from him is a larger-than-life package of his favourite elements that entertained in its heyday but appear frustratingly dated now. The outcome is sloppy to the point of comical in Kaanchi, which plays out like a terrible parody of his own works – Taal, Khalnayak, Karz and Pardes.
So there’s the titular character, played by newcomer Mishti, projecting an awkward combination of Ghai’s traditional sensibilities and acquired modernism (read abundant kissing scenes) that’s so hopelessly contrived, I don’t know where to begin.
Kaanchi is a frisky pahari girl who dresses up in sack kurtas with a canvas belt, talks like Kimi Katkar in a B-movie, screeches like an electrocuted cat and cries in a voice that will haunt you for days to come.
Ghai would love us to believe she’s a valiant youth icon waiting to be discovered by “New India.” I, on the other hand, am quite convinced she’s no more than a feisty fangirl who’s grown up on a diet of Khoon Bhari Maang, Aakhri Raasta and Baazigar. Mishti looks like Mayuri Kango with darker eyes and performs as naturally as the curls on her head.
Her antics catch the attention of three men – her childhood sweetheart (Kartik Tiwari is like a cross between Luv Sinha and Zayed Khan in looks and talent), the corrupt politician’s painter son (Rishabh Sinha sporting a distractingly copious mane) and a maverick Mumbai cop (Chandan Roy Sanyal in a role recycled from Anil Kapoor’s leftovers in Ram Lakhan and Taal and also the only one who has fun partaking in this sham for what it is.)
What transpires between them must’ve read important on paper but is complete baloney on celluloid. Following a foul episode, Kaanchi, armed with zero emotionality, sets out to wreak havoc on her offenders with laughable ease –she jumps into a river in Uttaranchal and lands directly in Mumbai? What is she? Aquaman?
Let’s not even get on the subject of plot loopholes. Characters miraculously get linked to previously unrelated episodes even as Kaanchi: The Unbreakable (lest you forget) switches on and off as it pleases to accommodate songs, sometimes as many as three within the span of thirty seconds or transform its leading lady from a coy flirt to a Mujhe ghar jaana hai kutte-yelling angry young woman.
It’s hard not to wince through dialogues like “Kaakda hain hum Kaakda, so just chill” and “You know how dangerous I am, haina?” from the creator of “Saara shaher mujhe Loin ke naam se jaanta hai.” Even Ghai’s worst so far had some semblance of acting and lilting tunes to boot, Kaanchi is disappointing on both fronts.
This isn’t the first time Mithun Chakraborty has sleep-walked through drivel but his co-star Rishi Kapoor appears to have taken up this role like a dare where he’s vowed to perform badly. Clearly, a man of his word then.
The soundtrack (Ismail Darbar, Salim-Sulaiman) here is so feeble, I preferred to focus on the tired cheering of the young extras forming the crowded backdrop of a deshbhakti ditty (Hindustan kahan hai) and overlook Mahima’s frumpy attempt at doing a Kajol-in-Karan Johar movies-reminiscent song appearance (Kambal ke neeche).
From effortlessly epic to unintentionally campy, Ghai’s school of entertainment has taken quite a beating.
I walked out hastily from the screening, having witnessed a particularly ridiculous final combat, hoping to erase Kaanchi’s absurd imagery and loony politics with the thumping nostalgia of dhina dhin dha. Now that loyalty, that’s unbreakable, Mr Ghai.
This review was first published on rediff.com.