Director: Farhad Samji
Writers: Farhad Samji, Sparsh Khetarpal, Tasha Bhambra
Cast: Salman Khan, Venkatesh Daggubati, Pooja Hegde, Vijender Singh
Even though it has a director, writer, special effects, soundtrack and other such cinema-related moving parts, to describe Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan (KKBKKJ) as a film would be a mistake. A Salman Khan Eid release has no aspirations of being a mere film. It’s an entertainer, an aspiring cultural reset and having chucked minor details like logic out of the window, what KKBKKJ essentially ends up being is a 144-minute long striptease. The first time we see Khan, he’s a wind-swept swirl of long hair and leather, looking like a Jesus impersonator who is also part of a biker gang. Over the course of the next 142 minutes, we get a systematic (and excruciatingly slow) shedding — first to go is the long hair; then the beard is shaved; and in the climax, Khan rises from the dusty earth with his shirt finally de-buttoned to reveal a slightly-sus set of abs. It’s hard to imagine anyone will think that’s enough Bhai for your buck.
Allegedly a remake of Ajith-starrer Veeram (2014), KKBKKJ feels in part like director Farhad Samji’s ode to Mohabbatein (2000). Three young men named Ishq (Raghav Juyal), Moh (Jassie Gill), and Luv (Siddharth Nigam) want to get married to three young women (Shehnaz Gill, Palak Tiwari, Vinali Bhatnagar), but there’s a problem. The three men’s older brother, Bhaijaan (Khan), is a committed bachelor. Until he’s got himself a wife, the younger trio can’t dream of coupledom. (Don’t ask why. This is a Farhad Samji film. Stop expecting logic. Or storytelling, for that matter.)
Instead of a Shah Rukh Khan, we get Pooja Hegde as Bhagyalaxmi, who is tasked with softening up Bhaijaan. She is a “conservative restorer” and falls in love with Bhaijaan despite not knowing his real name or anything else about him. Then again, she doesn’t know the difference between conservation, conservative and restoration, so perhaps ignorance really is bliss. While all this is happening, thugs and bad guys pop up every few minutes to ensure there’s a fight scene that the audience can get behind.
With a little help from Jesus and the Bhagavad Gita — Bhaijaan and Bhagyalaxmi’s idea of flirting is to toss quotes from the Gita at one another — love at its most insipid blooms in Bhaijaan’s life. Thus at the end of the first half, instead of an interval sign, we’re shown a banana leaf with some food on it and the words “Welcome to South India”. By which KKBKKJ means Hyderabad, in case you were wondering. There’s a new set of goons for Bhaijaan to beat up when he and his brothers go to meet Bhagyalaxmi’s family. At one point, Khan takes the adage of “use your head” quite literally, and bashes up the bad guy by headbutting him. He pauses in the middle to crack a pun — “Kya kehte hain, brainstorming?” and then returns to head butt the bejesus out of his opponent.
In all fairness, this might actually be more plot than Khan’s films have had in recent years. Samji packs KKBKKJ with many gags and some good action scenes, but the film doesn’t come together. It lurches from plot point to plot point awkwardly, weighed down by performances that are both unconvincing and uncharismatic. Khan lumbers through the film and it’s both exhausting and embarrassing to see him pretending to be young. A Salman Khan film is supposed to leave you with a motto or an earworm, or a gesture like the belt-buckle move of Dabangg (2010). KKBKKJ gives us clunky couplets like “Insaniyat mein hai dum, Vande Mataram” and choreography that looks like Khan’s leg-day routine at the gym.
The trouble with KKBKKJ is that aside from the action sequences feeling monotonous and lacklustre performances, this is a stupid film that wants to be clever. In an attempt to be meta, Samji salutes the seeti-maaroing crowd by saying that if you need Bhaijaan, you just need to whistle. The idea is that as people in the film pucker up to whistle for Bhaijaan, so will those in the audience. No one did in the show that this reviewer watched. Khan’s limited range of expressions is gently mocked when he’s asked to show how he expresses various emotions and the result is the same face with barely a twitch of change. This could have been funny if Khan’s repertoire wasn’t actually limited to one and a half expressions.
Bhaijaan (like Shah Rukh Khan’s titular hero in Pathaan) has no name that will give away his religion, caste or any other identifying detail. The implication is that his entire existence is dedicated to being what the audience expects him to be — their Bhaijaan. However, unlike Shah Rukh’s Pathaan, Khan’s Bhaijaan has no personality, only hulking muscles. Ironically, Khan’s off-screen popularity is built upon a reputation of kindness and generosity, but the film doesn’t seem to think that’s glamorous enough for fiction. It opts to establish Bhaijaan as a hero through violence. KKBKKJ also works hard to put across the idea that extreme violence is “self-defence” and the only “practical” response to the world being the way it is (i.e. full of thugs and villains). It’s a curiously belligerent stand to take and makes you wonder what audiences will take away from this messaging.
Perhaps because KKBKKJ is Khan’s first big-screen release since Dabangg 3 (2019), the film radiates more anxiety than swag. Unusually for a Khan starrer, KKBKKJ is filled with names with fan followings of their own. The supporting cast is packed with people who are either small-scale legends, like Satish Kaushik and Rohini Hattangadi, or social media celebrities, like Shehnaz Gill and Jassie Gill. Venkatesh, for instance, has a solid hero moment and in the theatre where this reviewer watched the film, the Telugu star got a louder set of catcalls than Khan. Boxer Vijender Singh plays one of the villains, Mahavir. Telugu star Ram Charan shows up in one of the songs and walks off saying, “Bhaijaan ki shaadi mein Ram diwaana (Ram is giddy with joy at Bhaijaan’s wedding)”. Honey Singh was brought on to do the end-credits song, which should be listed as a human rights violation for the way it mangles nursery rhymes. It feels as though all these shiny bits are supposed to distract us from Khan, rather than bask in his reflected glory.
Perhaps the best cameo in KKBKKJ comes from Bhagyashree and Maine Pyar Kiya (1989). She and Bhaijaan meet after more than two decades at her son’s (played by her actual son Abhimanyu Dasani) engagement. Wittingly or unwittingly, the scene provides a commentary on stardom when it shows Bhagyasree as someone who has gone on with her life while Bhaijaan is stuck in a limbo of static sameness for more than 20 years. Maybe it’s time Bhaijaan grew up a little?