Would it kill Bollywood to find something different for Ronit Roy to do?
The 49-year-old actor, who is one of TV's biggest stars, has been seen in Hindi films such as 'Udaan' (2010) and '2 States' (2014) in the past few years, and in pretty much the same role every time: a patriarchal, violent chauvinist who exists to make the central character's life miserable at best and a living nightmare at worst.
In Subhash Kapoor's 'Guddu Rangeela', Roy plays Billoo Pehelwan, a one-dimensional antagonist from Meerpur, Haryana. Billoo is a thug with high political aspirations and an unabashed supporter of honour killings. He's a character carved out of sundry newspaper headlines and Roy plays him, well, just like he plays all his other characters. The only difference is the dialect he speaks in.
Ronit Roy in a still from 'Guddu Rangeela'
Roy's archetypal performance, however, may not be the worst thing about 'Guddu Rangeela', which is essentially a typically loud '80s revenge drama with 'Ishqiya'-like heartland cinema pretensions. It even has Arshad Warsi, who plays Rangeela, as its Naseeruddin-Shah-equivalent from Abhishek Chaubey's memorable debut film, while Amit Sadh ('Kai Po Che') plays his role from that movie, as bumbling younger brother Guddu.
Their pairing is also clearly meant to be a tribute to Jai and Veeru from 'Sholay', as evidenced by a number of none-too-subtle references to Ramesh Sippy's classic. This includes a half-hearted number featuring them on a motorcycle and a sidecar as they travel to Chandigarh, a climax set in a rocky mining area that recalls the 'Chambal valley' (fun fact: those sequences in 'Sholay' were actually shot in Karnataka), and a water tower similar to the one Dharmendra threatened to jump off from. Sadh even sports a floppy, mop-top hairstyle as he attempts to play a goofball, only he can't seem to do it without inadvertently coming across as somewhat mentally-challenged.
The two brothers, who play in a brass orchestra and sing songs with words like 'email' and 'Facebook' thrown in, are also small-time crooks who'll do anything to make a buck. The film is set in Haryana, of course, so the plot introduces maryaada-lovin' khap panchayats and corrupt policemen to establish the setting. As a result of their shenanigans, we learn soon that Guddu and Rangeela need to pay Rs 10 lakh to stay out of jail, at which point a seedy character named Gaurav Chatterjee aka Bangaali (Dibyendu Bhattacharya), who works as a 'PR for the underworld' (you read that correctly, yes) offers them a job that involves kidnapping a deaf-mute girl named Baby (Aditi Rao Hydari).
Kapoor, a former journalist whose sophomore effort was the eminently watchable satire 'Phas Gaye Re Obama' (2010), seems to have lost complete control of his craft in this latest outing. There are points at which the dialogue is interesting and the movie strikes a fine balance between drama and comedy, such as a funny scene that involves a bumbling constable Gulab Singh (Rajiv Gupta, perhaps the only really watchable actor in this film) playing antakshari inside a toilet.
However, during the rest of the movie, Kapoor lets melodrama take over, taking his script far too seriously and dwelling too long on the largely insipid jokes. The plot is needlessly bloated and convoluted, the treatment is largely contrived, and many scenes -- such as one that involves a character's injured buttocks -- are facile attempts at black humour that don't work at all. Throw in Hitesh Sonik's loud industrial-rock-meets-pakhawaj background score and an awful sound mix that grates on your nerves, and 'Guddu Rangeela' becomes a trial to sit through.
It also doesn't help that the cast can't do much to hide the script's flaws, with the worst offenders being Hydari, who also comes across as too urban for this role; and character actor Brijendra Kala, as Bangaali's accomplice from Shimla, who seems to think mere mannerisms and voice-modulation exercises constitute a performance. Warsi is insipid at best while Sadh would've been annoying if he had more screen presence (mercifully, he doesn't).
An important plot point is inspired by the real-life Manoj-Babli honour killing case and it would've been great to see this film use that tragic story in a manner that was more responsible. 'Guddu Rangeela' could have used subtle-yet-sharp satire to bring out the horror of a world where falling in love outside your caste can get you killed; instead, it chooses the typically shallow masala entertainer route to create something that is half-baked and, ultimately, indigestible.