The latest offering from filmmaker Milan Luthria, known for blockbusters such as Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai and The Dirty Picture, Baadshaho is a heist thriller starring Ajay Devgn, Ileana D'Cruz, Emraan Hashmi, and Vidyut Jammwal in the pivotal roles. Key supporting roles are played by Esha Gupta, Sanjay Mishra, and Sharad Kelkar. Baadshaho marks the fourth collaboration between Devgn and Luthria—the first three being Kachche Dhaage, Chori Chori and Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai. Set in the backdrop of the 1975 Emergency, Baadshaho presents the tale of a fictional Rajasthani queen (loosely based on Maharani Gayatri Devi) and a bunch of small-time criminals whom she entrusts to recover the ancestral gold confiscated from her at the behest of a powerful political figure (loosely based on Sanjay Gandhi).
'Baadshaho' has some of the most exhilarating action and chase sequences seen in Hindi cinema in recent times.
The story behind the making of Baadshaho is certainly an interesting one. The film has been shot across Rajasthan, including in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Ranautar, and Kuldhara. According to reports, Milan Luthria was quite keen on shooting in real locations instead of creating them on sets in a bid to evoke a rugged and rustic feel. This required the crew members to undertake extensive recces along with the local line producers and guides in remote desert landscapes. While shooting in Ranautar, the actors had to travel more than 100km on a daily basis. Shooting in these remote locations, the ensemble cast encountered several security issues, especially while commuting in auto rickshaws, not to mention the harsh weather conditions that everyone involved in the project had to deal with.
The unique aspect about the films of Milan Luthria is their style, marked by theatrics and flashy one-liners spoken by larger-than-life characters which both intimidate and inspire. And Baadshaho is no different in this regard. There are villains capable of performing heroic deeds and there are heroes with villainous traits. There is no black and white, for that would be too boring for a filmmaker like Luthria. It's the shades of gray that appeal to him. In Baadshaho, we are presented with petty criminals who come across as more honourable than decorated soldiers. We also encounter debauched politicians and greedy policemen. The common thread that connects these characters is that none of them seem to have a clue about drudgery or boredom. For, they all have the luxury to live on the edge. It just cannot be any other way with Luthria.
The movie's biggest flaw is that it tries a little too hard to outwit the viewer and ends up with a few unnecessary twists that hinder rather than help the narrative.
Baadshaho has some of the most exhilarating action and chase sequences seen in Hindi cinema in recent times. To me, it is one of the best heist movies ever made in India. Ajay Devgn, Vidyut Jammwal, Emraan Hashmi, and Ileana D'Cruz are at the top of their game. Devgn's machismo, his powerful screen presence and sizzling chemistry with Ileana D'Cruz are highlights of the film. The song "Mere Rashke Qamar" is already a chartbuster. Hashmi gets to speak the best one-liners in the film. He also gets to share some intimate moments with Sunny Leone in the beautifully picturised song sequence "Piya More." Carrying an air of cocky arrogance, Jammwal here proves that he is much more than just a trained martial artist with a ripped physique. The movie's period detail is striking and credit goes to Luthria and team for their meticulous planning and execution. Also, those heading the editing, cinematography and sound departments need to be commended for their seamless work. However, the movie's biggest flaw is that it tries a little too hard to outwit the viewer and in the process ends up with a few unnecessary twists that hinder rather than help the narrative. Still, despite its flaws and excesses, Baadshaho proves to be a thoroughly entertaining film. Action enthusiasts, in particular, will love it. But if action is not your thing then this movie is certainly not for you!
A version of this review was first published in A Potpourri of Vestiges.