Players: The perfect robbery
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Bobby Deol, Sikander Kher, Omi Vaidya
Storyline: A heist goes wrong and the team leader must rob the betrayer.
Bottomline: A spoof is one way to remake The Italian Job.
Critics seem to underestimate the genius of Abbas-Mustan or even Farhan Akhtar who came out with a similar film a fortnight ago. Decades from now, they will be hailed as the founding fathers of the Bollywood New Wave and be spoken in the same breath as Orson Welles or Godard. *Ahem Ahem* *Chokes*
Don 2 and Players mark the birth and perfection of a form that has been in the making over the past decade with unpolished gems like Race, Prince or Mission Istaanbul getting most of these elements right.
Bollywood’s New Wave is not just modern or postmodern cinema, it is a meta-psychological gratification of the inner subconscious of today’s generation of viewers. A generation for whom the most important aspect of pop-culture is entertainment that is reactive and borne out of an existential need to let out steam by one driving desire: to make fun of people.
To put it simply, the viewer gets maximum entertainment when he is able to participate in manufacturing it. So if he can make snide remarks or tweet about how bad it was, he feels happy and entertained. Director duo Abbas-Mustan and Farhan Akhar have broken the wall that has separated the creators and the consumers of cinema by letting the audience in on the joke they are telling us.
Here’s how Abbas-Mustan pulled it off.
1. The Usual Suspects: Who are the guys the audience makes fun of the most? Star kids. Line them up. Abhishek Bachchan is made fun of for his rapstar image, for having a Bluetooth set stuck up his ear and showing up in his Dhoom costume no matter what film he is in. Make him do all of that. Sign up Sikander Kher for the acting powerhouse that he is, Sonam Kapoor for her fashion sense (you can always make her wear leopard print leggings), Bobby Deol… Just put him in, we will figure out the joke later. And one more actor who needs to be a mole but with a huge mole on his face so that the audience can identify him right from the start… Maybe that Johnny Gaddar boy. Gee, what’s he going to do in this movie?
2. The Originality Debate: Every time we make a movie, the audience and the critics make a big deal about plagiarism. Abeyaar, what it is to you? Ok, fine, we bought the rights, happy? But for the money we paid, we will remake both Italian Jobs in the same movie even if we just paid for one and set it everywhere but Italy. We will do unmentionable things to it right in front of your eyes and you can’t complain we stole a film. Players becomes that rare film with near identical first and second halves because you are watching the exact same film twice.
3. The Predictablity Predicament: The idea is to turn everything meta. The actors are part of the joke (they are not going to complain even if you call one of them Spider) and then make him stay in a Bat, no… Spider-Cave. To mess with the audience’s perception of the predictable, you make the characters so inconsistent – one minute they are in the good team and the other they are bad. Every time you make them change teams, you bring about a twist. Since this is a meta-movie, make the hero spell it out before unraveling it: “The final twist always belongs to the hero”.
4. Sex and Sexuality: A good meta-movie raises the right questions through the right players. Like a Russian military officer tells Bipasha when she wants to break into a song instead of getting straight to the action, “Why do Indians always sing when you feel horny?”
5. Movies as heist: The structure of storytelling of this post-postmodern form is simply this: We, the creators, will come up with the first line and you, the audience, will complete the joke. You are happy because you get to make a joke and we are happy because you paid for the ticket. You laugh your way by trending on Twitter and we laugh our way to the bank. A perfect robbery.
Okay, before they print this on their DVD to con more people, here’s the disclaimer: The movie entertains a lot but not the way it wants to. Go only if you want to make fun of it. Else, go for Gold or at least cash. But make sure you get one of the two.
(This review originally appeared here.)