Director: Remo D’Souza

Cast: Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez, Bobby Deol, Daisy Shah, Saqib Saleem

The choreographer-turned-director Remo D’Souza may be the most truthful filmmaker in Bollywood. He knows he’s not out to make classics, which may be why the titles of his films appear almost confessional. First came F.A.L.T.U. Translation: Don’t say you weren’t warned! It’s the cinematic equivalent of ordering something that’s labelled on the menu as Somewhat Iffy Salad, Prepared by a Rather Questionable Chef. Then we got the Any Body Can Dance films – as opposed to, Only People with Rhythm and  Grace and Years of Proper Training Can Dance. Talent is overrated, the title said. Now, we have Race 3, with Salman Khan. The title suggests instant disconnect. Can you imagine that bulked-up, steroid-ified body doing anything as fleet as… racing? Lumbering Slo-mo Walk Towards the Camera 3 might have worked. But a better title comes to mind: Any Body Can Make a Movie.

Oh, but I’m probably protesting too much – for the general ineptness of an entry in the Race franchise is a given. The question, inevitably, isn’t how good the film is, but how bad! Is it trashy-fun bad, something you can laugh about and get through with snarky friends and a bucket of buttered popcorn? Or is it worse, the kind of badness where you are seized by fits of gratitude towards the inventor of the smartphone, who gave you the option of doing something more entertaining, like catching up on emails from HR? Or is it a few rungs lower, where you question your career choice as a film critic, and wonder if you should have chosen something less stressful, like running a preschool for two-year-olds with ADHD? Or is it a film that leaves you with molten rage towards your parents, who caused you to be born and witness a day when Salman Khan accuses Jacqueline Fernandez of overacting!

Walking into Race 3, I was mildly perturbed when the attendant handed me a pair of 3D glasses. I did not know the Race franchise had any dimension, let alone a third.  

That’s an actual line in the movie. As is this: “Our business is our business, and none of your business.” Walking into Race 3, I was mildly perturbed when the attendant handed me a pair of 3D glasses. I did not know the Race franchise had any dimension, let alone a third. Besides, given the tendency of the actors in these films to rip off their shirts, the last thing I wanted was to be poked in the eye by a jutting nipple. But it turns out, far greater horrors lay in store, in the form of dialogues. A request to play a video on a laptop goes thus: “Usey dil nahin, DELL kholke dikhao.” Some bragging about a new girlfriend comes likes this: “It’s a done deal. Signed, sealed and delivered… With a kiss!” Here’s how a character explains how she overheard a conversation: “Bugs. Kaatne waale nahin. Sunne wale!” I wanted to take the writer aside and explain to him what lines were: “Geometry waale nahin. Script waale.”

As the theory goes, if you put 100 monkeys with typewriters in a room long enough, eventually you’ll get Hamlet. Race 3 is one of those other 99 drafts. The script certainly looks like it was untouched by human hands. The trademark twists from the earlier films are reduced to minor reveals that even the cast doesn’t seem convinced by – though, to be fair, given this cast, “Mere paas maa hai” wouldn’t sound very different from “Abba dabba jabba.” And what about the plot? It’s supposedly about a heist, but that event is dispensed with in the course of a song. (There are many slow songs, though it could also be that the editor followed the default pace of the film and rendered the numbers, too, in slow motion.) Instead, we get a story about an arms dealer (Anil Kapoor, giving an object lesson on how you can be good even in a bad movie) and his three children (Salman Khan, Daisy Shah and Saqib Saleem). This is Salman’s version of “it’s all about loving your family.” Call it Kabhi Khushi Kabhie… Dus Ka Dum.

Lest I be accused of not giving the film a chance, let me rummage through the 160-minute running time for positives. Instead of blindly aping Hollywood, there’s – at least in theory – an attempt at a throwback to the 70s masala multi-starrers. Oh, and Salman Khan, Daisy Shah and Saqib Saleem are perfectly cast as siblings. This is not to suggest a physical resemblance – but something intrinsically deeper. Their expressions suggest they were chiselled out of the same log of wood. I suppose I should say something about the stunts – in slo-mo naturally. Daisy Shah uses the heel of her stiletto instead of a knife. It’s a pity the action choreographer didn’t realise her dialogue delivery is more lethal. Bobby Deol is there, too, pursing his lips and trying not to seem too sheepish about the fact that his forthcoming films are Yamla Pagla Deewana 3 and Housefull 4.

I looked back fondly on Abbas-Mustan, who, in the first two instalments, at least kept the pace going, even if they didn’t quite impart the cunning auteurist touch that Remo D’Souza does. The number three is woven into the film’s very soul. Note, first, the number of Anil Kapoor’s children – it matches the number in the film’s title. The voiceover that introduces the characters imbues everyone with precisely three qualities. Someone is “powerful, evil, and dangerous.” Someone else is “bold, smart, and ambitious.” A third character is “loyal, lovable, and lethal.” Sometimes, the same quality is said in three different ways, as in “Jis pe bharosa nahin, vishwas nahin, trust nahin…” And note the number of things Salman Khan says matter to him: “Parivaar, insaaniyat, mohabbat!” Someone should write an essay, thesis, dissertation about this. Meanwhile, I’ll just say I walked out bored, tired, scarred for life.

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