The new Yash Raj Produced film Gunday is quite frankly a celebration of sculpted torsos, reminiscent of the hit 90’s television show Baywatch. Instead of running on sandy Los Angeles beaches and saving lives at sea, Indian boys Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor are seen dodging bullets and explosions in Kolkata mines while fleeing from law enforcements — but darn these guys can run!
Let’s begin by simply pointing out that Gunday is a fiction film — the project has been heavily criticized due to its incorrect historical facts, particularly the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh. The movie claims that Bangladesh was formed as a result of an Indian-Pakistan War, whereas India joined the war on December 3rd, 1971 — the war had been going on since March 26th, 1971 between East Pakistan (later joined by India) and West Pakistan. Others have condemned the project for portraying Bangladeshis in a negative light such as crooks or criminals, when in reality they had been fighting for the liberation of their motherland. All historical facts aside, the picture clearly indicates in its opening slates that this is a fictitious story.
Regardless of factual errors, Gunday begins in the 1970’s; it focuses on two rebels, Bikram (Ranveer Singh) and Bala (Arjun Kapoor) who have been given a raw deal in life. Born as orphans during the India-Bangladesh crisis, the friends are instant refugees who discover that to make money, they must think outside the box — they begin their reign by looting coal but later amass a large business empire by killing and pillaging. These guys are bandits, thick as thieves, inseparable — they are Gunday (the outlaws). Director Ali Abbas Zafar, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (2011), begins the picture with a hint of originality and flair, but later ventures into cliché territory when Bikram and Bala meet the striking cabaret dancer Nandita (Priyanka Chopra). It is here the film looses its ground as the boys begin to literally ‘fight’ for Nandita’s hand like spoilt children bickering over a toy. Ali Abbas Zafar employs this time worn formula without adding his own unique spin to it — Zafar’s directorial debut Mere Brother Ki Dulhan was about two brothers who fall in love with the same woman, whilst Gunday is about two friends (pretty much brothers) who fall in love with the same girl — clearly we’ve seen this kind of set-up before. The quarrel between Bikram and Bala — which threatens to break the duo’s childhood bond — also had me wondering why the friends — who were pretty much famous in Kolkata — were both fighting over the ‘one’ woman. Couldn’t they find anyone else in Kolkata or was there perhaps a famine of beautiful women?
Regardless of its predictability, there is still plenty of fun to be had with Gunday particularly in its attempt to mirror the bombastic 1970’s cinema. Production design by Rajat Poddar, Life in a Metro (2007), is first rate with locations in Mumbai and Kolkata shinning with lively colors and flair. Music and songs composed by Sohail Sen with lyrics by Sanjay add energy to the picture when it’s generally needed — the cabaret number ‘Asalaam-E-Ishqum’ shows off Priyanka Chopra’s star-power, whereas ‘Tune Maari Entriyaan’ is entertaining, vibrate and immensely catchy. It’s plainly evident that Yash Raj Films invested a lot of time and money into the project, which is visibly apparent right through the entire picture with grand costumes, locations and sets.
The chemistry between leads Ranveer Singh, Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela (2013) and Arjun Kapoor, Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), is relatively convincing — it’s obvious the boys are having a great time on set — but out of the pair, Singh comes-off as more memorable as his act is totally refined whereas Kapoor comes across, from time-to-time, as an irritable grouch who needs some sense knocked into him. Leading lady Priyanka Chopra, Don (2006) — who can work a sari like a super-star — tries her hardest to jazz-up her one-dimensional character. Surprisingly it’s veteran actor Irrfan Khan, The Life of PI (2012), who totally steals the show as ruthless cop A.C.P. Satyajeet Sarkar — the officer in charge of capturing the outlaws Bikram and Bala — who has cemented his name in Hollywood as one of Bollywood’s finest exports.
Filled with punchy one-liners, over-the-top action, dazzling colors, a vivacious soundtrack and a couple of flawless torsos, Gunday is a relatively enjoyable — if not slightly overlong — 70’s caper which should keep most entertained from its grand opening number to its show stopping finale in the Kolkata mines. Historical inaccuracies aside, this is a generally enjoyable ride.
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Gunday is released through Yash Raj Films