Director: Remo D’Souza
Cast: Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez, Bobby Deol, Daisy Shah, Saqib Saleem
What do you need for a Race movie? Firstly, an assortment of beautiful, bad people. These folks need to be staggeringly stylish and gleefully free of morals – even when it comes to their own family. So in the first film, brothers try to kill each other and in the second, a brother and sister are murderous betrayers. In the first, both brothers have an affair with the same woman, prompting that memorably cheesy dialogue – Kya zamana aa gaya – shaadi chhote bhai ke saath aur suhaag raat bade bhai ke saath. There are no heroes in this franchise. It’s 50 shades of grey. Here kameenapan is a badge of honor. You also need a steady supply of snazzy cars, gorgeous foreign locations, James Bond-style gadgetry, delicious dialogue-baazi and at least two killer dance numbers and half-a-dozen outlandish plot twists.
Race 3 has the cars and locations but everything else is in short supply – especially the trademark kameenapan. The entry of Salman Khan has made the franchise sanskari. He plays the Oxford-educated Sikander who spouts lines about parivaar, insaniyat, mohabbat. Sikander kills only bad people. He’s not driven by money or power. He’s a noble man who forgives even those who plot against him. Half an hour into this interminably long film, I was missing Saif Ali Khan’s character Ranvir Singh – remember him in those crisply tailored suits, murdering anyone who crossed him? In Race 2, he steals the Shroud of Turin. It’s entirely logic-free, superbly silly and ridiculously fun.
But that twisty, popcorn thriller was the brainchild of the veterans of suspense – the brothers Abbas-Mustan. Here Remo D’Souza takes over. He and writer Shiraz Ahmed design a showcase for their superstar. Salman is in every frame, solving every problem. Even the agony of being stuck in traffic – because he just puts on this winged suit and flies where he needs to go. I need to know where to get one of those.
The rest of the cast pale before him. The refurbished Bobby Deol tries hard to match up – even baring his chiseled chest. But he looks confused, like even he is having a hard time figuring out whose team he’s on. There is a spot of unintentional comedy in a song with him and Daisy Shah – she’s upside down, swaying on an aerial contraption and he looks genuinely mystified to find himself opposite her, trying to feign romance. Daisy, apart from that meme-worthy dialogue about business, is forgettable. Sadly, so is the usually reliable Saqib Saleem, reduced here to pouting and attaching ‘bro’ to the end of every dialogue. Jacqueline Fernandez looks stunning and her pole-dancing is truly admirable – I spent some time thinking about what it takes to get core strength like that.
But the only one who walks away unscathed by the Salman tsunami is the impeccably styled Anil Kapoor. He looks like he’s having a ball, though he was so much more fun as the corrupt inspector RD in the first two films. In the second, he turns to his dim-witted assistant and says: Tumne mujhe Turkey ka tharki samjha hai. This film doesn’t give him any opportunity for that flamboyance.
Race 3 doesn’t have any foot-tapping songs either but the hardware is in place – the film is car-porn. I know nothing about automobiles but I found myself admiring the line-up of Lamborghinis and Rolls-Royces. Action directors Anal Arasu and Thomas Struthers design some slick stunts. Remo fetishizes the cars, helicopters, looming towers, gilded rooms and bars where these characters hang out but he doesn’t extend the same love to the narrative. Storytelling is sacrificed at the altar of Superstar Salman Khan.
But as Sultan and Bajrangi Bhaijaan proved, even he soars higher with a script and a skilled director who can find a way to use his outsized screen presence. Remo resorts to the tired tricks of ripping his shirt off in the climax and having Salman break the fourth wall and wink at us. We even get a close-up of his bicep as he readies to fire missiles.
At one point in the film, Sikander says: family aur family ke prati loyalty se bhad kar kuch nahin hota. I thought I had walked into the wrong film. This isn’t Race. It is, as Salman is rumored to have described it, Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! meets Dhoom. You can imagine how that plays out.