Players, Abhishek Bachchan

<Review by: Tushar A Amin>

Directed by Abbas-Mustan. Starring Abhishek Bachchan, Bobby Deol, Bipasha Basu, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Sonam Kapoor, Sikander Kher, Omi Vaidya.

Remember how it feels to watch even a few minutes of C.I.D. (India’s longest running and highest rated crime series on television) if you are used to watching C.S.I.? Well, Players is the (2.5 hours plus long) C.I.D. version of The Italian Job. Exasperating, unintelligent and unintentionally funny.

Charlie (Abhishek Bachchan) assembles a team of ‘players’ with the help of mentor (and ‘non-playing captain’) Victor (Vinod Khanna) to heist Romanian gold from a Russian train. This team includes Charlie’s partner Riya (Bipasha Basu), explosives expert Bilal (Sikander Kher), prosthetics expert Sunny (Omi Vaidya), illusionist Ronnie (Bobby Deol) and hacker Spider (Neil Nitin Mukesh). The first half is about the heist that goes as planned but Spider turns the tables on the other ‘players’. The players survive but Victor is killed setting the stage for the excruciating second half where Victor’s daughter, Master in Computers, Riya (Sonam Kapoor) joins Charlie and his chaps to retrieve the gold from Spider.

Taking the original Hollywood script as a ‘jumping point’, Abbas-Mustan go about butchering it methodically. Every move is followed by an exposition and every detail is vocalised, as prescribed by the Dummies’ Guide To ‘Indianising’ a Movie. The narrative moves across spectacular locales – from Amsterdam to Russia to Goa to New Zealand – but the intelligence quotient remains in Bollywood territory – a rock steady minus 40.

Abbas-Mustan who turned Akshay into Khiladi Kumar, unleashed the darker side of King Khan and gave us Bollywood’s resident jungli-billi. No such luck for Abhishek Bachchan, though. The actor is in autopilot mode from the word go with altitude dropping (despite the horizon levels set at Dhoom levels). Sonam Kapoor looks gorgeous but acts amateurishly, trampling all over Nargis Fakhri territory. Bobby Deol wears a morose expression and thankfully, is disposed-off in the first half. Sikander Kher has very little to do and he reciprocates by putting in as much.

Bipasha and Neil Nitin Mukesh are the only ones who even try to perform in this movie. The former succeeds, the latter fails. And hilariously. Bipasha looks sizzling and makes sincere attempts to lend conviction to her character. Neil’s antics are another story altogether. Then there’s Vinod Khanna trapped in a time-warp, hamming his way till he is bumped off. Finally, there’s Omi Vaidya playing the Punjabi version of Chatur and losing whatever little was left of his dignity in the process.

Which brings us to the writing. Rohit Jugraj (remember James, anyone?) and Sudip Sharma are credited with this uninspired adaptation. Words like ‘ predictable’ and ‘unimaginative’ are bandied around by the characters in this film. Fruedian slips, these? To think, they actually had a ready script! On the technical front, the film scores a big plus with crisp cinematography and finely edited action sequences (the editor cannot be blamed for the drawn out climax). The highlight of the film is the train-heist sequence, executed with finesse. The legendary Mini Cooper sequence is overdrawn and tiresome. The climax is piled on with so many inane twists and expositions that you wish the movie had ended at interval.

Of course, we cannot blame The Men In White. They have paid for the ‘official remake’ tag. So they have every right to ‘Indianise’ it and make it their own. You know what that means: Remove all traces of intelligence from the film, and force so many inane twists into the climax that the Abbas-Mustan WTF Twists Barrier™ is shattered. How you wish they had just plagiarised the DVD and made a frame-by-frame copy instead!

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