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Starts slow, gradually picks up and gets engrossing but eventually gets way too self-conscious


Starring: Rishi Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Arjun Kapoor, Prithviraj, Tanvi Azmi, Sasha Agha, Swara Bhaskar, Deepti Naval, Rasika Duggal, Anupam Kher, Amrita Singh
Directed by Atul Sabharwal
Rating: **

At the very start itself, Aurangzeb promises a lot with its delectable spread of fantastic actors. One by one, we get introduced to the characters they play. But this big strength of the film also proves to be a burden. Unwittingly at that. With a screenplay crowded with innumerable characters, director Atul Sabharwal choo­ses to cast strong actors in minute roles. As a result, one is left asking for more, especially when it comes to the three ladies of the cop family—the po­­wer-endorsing mother Deepti Naval, the reticent and retiring daughter-in-law Swara Bhaskar and the almost invisible daughter Rasika Duggal. Rasika, extremely effective in last year’s experimental Kshay, is in particular entirely wasted in the blink-and-you-miss role. The ladies belong to the Prithviraj-Rishi Kapoor cop family that is out to get the real estate biggie and land shark Jackie Shroff. They end up playing the same dirty game and getting as morally compromised as the villainous rivals.

In narrating this tale, the film ends up revisiting a lot of tropes of the multistarrers of the ’70s and ’80s. We have the familiar themes—of twins separating and reuniting, the emotionally charged father-son conflicts, of the legit and illegitimate heirs, of deceits and deceptions that build as well as destroy families. Alongside is the “Aurangzeb motif”, of a Mughal prince who’d kill even his next of kin to take over the empire. Kingship, after all, knows no kinship. What changes here is the locale. The underbelly of crime is Gurg­aon, in tune with contemporary times; the backdrop comes from recent newspaper headlines, about farmland illegally eaten away by spanking new expressways.

The film starts slow, gradually picks up and gets engrossing but eventually gets way too self-conscious instead of being spontaneous in what it’s trying to do. The formulae that entertained effortlessly back then get wearisome and turgid beyond a point, what with the ominous and tiresome background music. The film is driven by conversations and exchanges but the dialogue stops impressing beyond a “Apnon ki keemat sapnon se zyada hoti hai”.

Arjun, the main protagonist, carries on where Ishaqzaade left, the insolence of his Ajay here is no different from his debut as Parma in Ishaqzaade. The other role, of the twin Vishal, finds him all pasty and pale. Debutant Sasha disrobes, pouts, preens and dances with a vigour entirely at variance with her demure actress-mother Salma Agha. Prithviraj is stiff and deadpan, but still immensely watchable, and Jackie gets hemmed in. It’s Rishi Kapoor who walks away with the film. As does Tanvi Azmi as the new-age Nirupa Roy.

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