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'Radhe—Your Most Wanted Bhai': Certainly not wanted!

Based on the 2017 Korean film, ‘The Outlaws’, on two warring gangs and a cop entrusted to put an end to the violent battles for the turf, 'Radhe' is nothing more than an unholy mess of a movie

Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@rohitjswl01
Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@rohitjswl01

Namrata Joshi

Let me begin with an honest confession. Salman Khan is a phenomenon that has largely passed me by. I have always found his fandom befuddling. What is there about this boy-man or man-boy who refuses to grow up, both on screen and off it? What is so libidinous about an over muscled, stiff, cast in stone, unmoving body? Wouldn’t it be better to keep that shaved chest and six packs demurely encased in shirts rather than keep ripping them off film after film?

Even if all these elements excited the members of his cult at some point in time, aren’t they now well past the best by date?

But fandom knows no logic. It is a vibe, an immutable one at that, it appears. Fans of stars, like the bhakts of a certain political party, are blind when it comes to faith in their deity. Curiously, they have also been the reason why I have managed to sit through many of Salman’s films.

Barring an odd Dabangg or Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which I enjoyed, I have managed to make sense of his other films less for what transpires on screen and more for the antics of the fans in the aisles of a Gaeity-Galaxy. And yes, I make this statement in full honesty and with total awareness of its patronizing tone.

So now what happens to Salman Khan vis-a vis a snobbish viewer like me when I get to watch the first day, first show of his new film in glorious solitariness at home, on an OTT platform? In the absence of the frenzy of his fans, the star falls flat, well and proper. That, in a nutshell, is the fate and a one-line review of Radhe—Your Most Wanted Bhai, that dropped on Zee Plex and Zee5 in India and released theatrically abroad.

Based on the 2017 Korean film, The Outlaws, on two warring gangs and a cop entrusted to put an end to the violent battles for the turf, Radhe is nothing more than an unholy mess of a movie. Stale, senseless and soporific at that.

As a bunch of villains, led by Randeep Hooda, wreak havoc amongst school and college kids of Mumbai, the city gets gripped in a pandemic of drug abuse. An encounter specialist cop called Radhe (Salman Khan) has his suspension revoked and called back on duty to clean things up at the earliest.

Be it the “entry” scene with the ubiquitous bracelet hanging on his hand, or that of-repeated “ek baar jo commitment kar li” dialogue; the tearing off of the shirt or the reference to biryani and the Eid Mubarak salutations, nothing sparks any magic of any kind.

Forget the recall value, no character, no relationship, no sequence, no song, no line, no chase, no fight, no killing has any “seeti-taali” potential whatsoever. And isn’t that what Salman cinema is supposed to be all about?

Radhe is an empty vessel of a film that tries to sail through by making a lot of loud noise that signifies nothing. It just whizzes past without making any impression with some nod to Swachh Bharat and Jai Hind towards the end to just seem timely.

An otherwise competent Randeep Hooda, as the prime villain, sleepwalks through the film. A veteran like Jackie Shroff, as Radhe’s boss, is reduced to a cheap caricature and a buffoon. And Salman Khan, very self-aware and self-conscious of himself as usual, thinks nothing more is needed of him than to just strut about or stand in the frame and be himself.

But the worst fate is reserved for Disha Patani. Even if one overlooks the starkly visible age difference between her and Salman, the framing of her character Diya itself is acutely offensive.

The well-meaning do-gooder model is turned into the acme of a light-headed, giddy woman. When she is not at the receiving end of asinine barbs of her brother, she is receiving kisses from her man, albeit with the lakshman rekha of a duct-tape on her lips. Yet another instance of a character who is turned into a mere prop for the benefit of the hero than having an independent existence of her own.

It lays bare the acutely conservative mindset of the makers and of the Salman Khan universe itself. Where men and women are hardly ever in a relationship of equals. Where the man is this self-anointed “protector” of the woman and the woman is seen as some kind of a property or possession.

It’s the patriarchal bedrock of Salman cinema. There is a giveaway scene that underscores this, where a person asks Radhe if he slammed so many people to pulp just for one girl. His righteous response is that he did it for the entire “aurat zaat”. As though he is under some kind of a contractual obligation for us women at large.

I cringed and winced and wanted to switch off the television immediately, were it not for living to tell this tale and venting it out in this piece. Seriously Salman, tell us another story.

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