Sunday, August 28, 2016


Movie Review : Rustom
Director : Dharmendra Suresh Desai 
Genre : Crime, Mystery
Language : Hindi
Released : 2016
Starring : Akshay Kumar, Ileana, Pawan Malhotra, Sachin Khedekar
My Rating : 6 out of 10

In late 1950, a naval officer, Kawas Nanavati, returned from his duty to find out that his wife has been having an affair with his best friend. He checked out a gun from the naval armory, killed his friend and surrendered himself to the police. That incident, and the resulting court case has now become well known. A Marathi stage drama, “Aparadh meech kela” was based on it. In Hindi, Gulzar directed “Achanak” starring Vinod Khanna, which I remember watching as a kid, when it was later shown on TV. That movie only borrowed the affair and the murder part, but eschewed the court case and took a different route. It was quite a good movie back then.

The Akshay Kumar starrer, ‘Rustom’, has chosen to stay quite close to the real life story. Some minor details have been changed, like the names of the people involved. The plot is wider than the extramarital affair and revenge. At the same time, many important details, such as a tabloid trying to manipulate public perception, the battle lines drawn along communal lines - Parsi v/s Sindhi - are kept intact.

It’s a story that can make us think hard. Although a murder was committed, the reason is easily understood and something many would empathize with. A soldier risking his life, going away from his family for long duration, and getting betrayed by his wife and his friend. His revenge is a crime according to the law, but still feels justified to some extent. That was indeed the public perception at that time. His pain, his wife’s guilty conscious, the moral ambiguity of his actions, the difference in what the law says vs what people feel is justifiable - these are the right kind of raw ingredients to construct a story that touches us deep inside. The manipulation of public perception, and the communal elements should add to the tension and intrigue.

Unfortunately, Rustom, fails use these ingredients effectively. The movies focuses more on the courtroom drama and widening the plot to include a conspiracy. Which may not have been a problem. But it’s not a riveting court drama, rather it’s full of lame arguments infused with silly humor. The conspiracy that was supposed to shock us also turns out to be something that’s very shallow to start with and it can be easily guessed anyways. In all this, the pain of the betrayal and complex emotional issues surrounding it are subjugated to play a secondary role in the story. I had more expectations because of the association of Neeraj Pandey with the movie. His previous works, Wednesday and Special 26, were quite good.

The focus of the presentation has issues, but the rest of the effort is on the par. Acting is on the mark by almost everyone. Akshay Kumar has evolved into a dependable actor for such serious roles. No one else has comparable screen time, but they all do well with their roles. The setting of the movie is from late 50s, early 60s, and it’s done well. The camerawork is splendid, and the warm hues added to the print make it visually interesting.

As a chess buff, I have to mention this. The chess game played between Rustom and the police inspector is accurate. In chess world, the move sequence is famously known as 'Legal's Mate', and is often taught to the beginners. Kudos to the film makers for getting it right.

I only have a lukewarm recommendation for this movie. It’s definitely a decent attempt to make a movie that’s different from most commercial Bollywood movies, and I appreciate that. In my opinion, it should have been more serious, more emotional.

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