Director: Karan Malhotra
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sidharth Malhotra, Jacqueline Fernandez, Jackie Shroff
I walked out of Brothers amazed by two things. First, how hard Akshay Kumar and Sidharth Malhotra have worked on their bodies. And second, how quickly a perfectly good story can unravel and turn into unintentional comedy.
Akshay and Sidharth play David and Monty, lower-middle-class Catholic brothers, who enter India’s first mixed martial arts competition, R2F or Right to Fight. You don’t believe for a second that these two are Catholic — here it means wearing a crucifix and saying ‘man’ — but you do believe that they could stand in an arena and take on gigantic opponents with names like Gamma and The Hammer.
Akshay is impressively understated. And a bulked-up Sidharth doesn’t yield an inch. He says little but summons up the rage of a lifetime of hurt. Both literally deliver a solid punch. Brothers is the remake of Warrior, a Hollywood film starring Nick Nolte, Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton.
Director Karan Malhotra adds a few more twists. But he ramps up the drama so much that it loses impact. By the time the bloody, bone-crunching climax rolls around, you are long past caring.
The first half of Brothers is engaging. Of course, you have to get past a few things — like Jackie Shroff playing Akshay Kumar’s father. Karan’s brief to Jackie must have been ‘Twitch or cry’, because that’s pretty much all he does. And Kareena Kapoor Khan’s item number, ‘Mera naam Mary’, which is both wholly unnecessary and uncomfortably voyeuristic.
But these clumsy spots are balanced out by some really good performances — especially that of Shefali Shah, who, as usual, steals every scene she’s in. A nicely crafted flashback explains why these three men are burdened with so much dislike and guilt.
But almost the entire second half is set in the competition arena. So we watch large, expressionless hulks hit each other and casually break bones. The tedium of this is broken by the commentators, one of whom is the hyperventilating Raj Zutshi. They are annoying and hilarious. Earlier in the film, Ashutosh Rana, playing a trainer named Pasha, tells David: “Duniya badi zalim hai, master. Dard pe hansti hain.” That’s exactly what happened at the show I was in — people started laughing, and not for the right reasons.
Brothers was obviously made with a great deal of sweat and strain, but there is no getting away from its solemn silliness.