Elaan (2005) / Action-Musical

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for violence and some sensuality
Running Time: 157 min.

Cast: Rahul Khanna, Mithun Chakraborty, Lara Dutta, Arjun Rampal, John Abraham, Amisha Patel
Director: Vikram Bhatt
Screenplay: Robin Bhatt, Vikram Bhatt
Review published February 17, 2005

Elaan, in a nutshell, is the 1975 film, Sholay, updated in the modern, over-the-top style.  If not for the Hindi dialogue and Bollywood conventions (musical interludes and the like), it smacks of a Jerry Bruckheimer production, with its bloated budget, stars cast on their looks, and massive explosions at every turn.  Unfortunately for director Vikram Bhatt, this sort of action movie is bad enough for an original Hollywood production, so why should one expect it to fare better as an Indian rehash?  Bhatt takes what’s wrong with today’s blockbuster movies, amplifies the noise and static, until whatever original idea he originally had gets drowned out in the process.

Baba Sikander (Mithun Chakraborty) is one of the most vicious crime kingpins and terrorists in the world, and his latest excursion into villainy involves the assassination of megabucks millionaire Kantilal Shah after Shah has refused to go along with Baba’s extortion plans.  Shah’s adopted son, Karan (Rahul Khanna), vows revenge, and he begins to assemble a team of trained badasses to take Baba out, including an ex-cop named Arjun (Arjun Rampal) and an escaped convict named Abhimanyu (John Abraham).  Also joining the gang is Priya (Amisha Patel), a femal reporter out for a hot scoop, and Abhimanyu’s old flame Sonia (Lara Dutta).

Bhatt’s reputation suggests a career of taking popular Hollywood concepts, and molding them into standard Bollywood conventions.  He does show a visual flair that would suggest he could pull off a great action vehicle, if only he weren’t content to work with overused clichés and a brain-dead delivery.  All in all, it is a slick-looking piece, very much in the tradition of high-budget action thrillers, but that also means it carries the same redundant overhead.

The action scenes are typical post-Matrix spectacles of wire-fu stylistics and over-the-top bravado.  As with most of the choreography of this ilk, the physics employed defy all natural laws, and definitely can’t be taken seriously. They wouldn’t be as bad if they weren’t as poorly executed as they are.  Hong Kong films have excelled for years making stunning spectacles of flying fists and death-defying stunts, but if Elaan is any indication, the mainstream Indian movies have a ways to go before they can catch up.  That every collision results in a massive explosion just goes to show how that Bhatt merely intends to copycat well-known conventions rather than employ some original thought to the project.

On the Bollywood side, you’ve come to expect hackneyed attempts to introduce musical numbers in the mix.  This proves to be a real liability, as the film seems to go off on a tangent every 30 minutes just to be able to work in another song, introducing elements, mostly romantic (and sappy) that just aren’t in keeping with the hard-boiled action.  It’s downright laughably executed, although, I can’t say I minded seeing Patel and Dutta strut their stuff in their very sexy attire.  If it’s not your thing, at least it affords a welcome break to stretch your legs, as this film clocks in at a whopping 157 minutes, padded to excess with drawn-out action pieces and musical montages.

At its core, Elaan is a bad movie, but might be pleasing for people into the slick Bruckheimer type of moviemaking which says to make sure the women are hot and the action scenes hotter.  If only Bhatt could find a way to introduce some sort of creativity or personal vision to the proceedings, instead of working so diligently to make sure that each action piece or plot development has been recycled out much more lavish and successful productions.

Qwipster's rating::

©2005 Vince Leo