Male Bollywood friendships often border on the homo-erotic with the introduction of the female character serving as a catalyst to highlight the sexual tension between the two buddies.
From as early as ‘Andaz’ (1949) to the current day, this theme has proved popular, usually addressed within the context of a love triangle where the male duo both fall for the same woman (‘Sangam’ , ‘Muddadar Ka Sikandar’ , ‘Dostana’ and the recent ‘Student of the Year’ ) and the repercussions which follow when this is revealed to all the parties.
It is often resolved by the men choosing friendship over love, one of them usually dying in the other’s arms with no serious exploration of the woman’s feelings and her own desires.
Director Ali Abbas Zafar (‘Mere Brother Ki Dulhan’) follows this stock plot device for his second outing but with one key exception.
When both of our hunky heroes declare their love for the ‘Guess’ brand ambassador and wanna be pop diva, she actually gets to choose.
When she chooses one over the other, she is (spoiler alert but this is pre-interval) promptly gunned down by the loser!
The film opens in 1971 with the end of the third war between India and Pakistan. So why is there a poster of ‘Zanjeer’ outside a cinema since it was released in 1973?
It follows Bikram (Ranveer Singh) and his best buddy Bala (Arjun Kapoor), two orphans who migrated to Bengal following the displacement of thousands in the aftermath of the said war which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh.
In the 80s, Bikram and Bala become the biggest ‘gundays’ (outlaws) controlling most of the black market coal and fish trade in the State.
These often semi-nude boys are inseparable: they share a bed, dress similarly, enjoy mud baths together, urinate together and sing endearing songs (‘Let’s celebrate the joys of love’) to each other. One says to the other: “I’ll live in your heart!”
The other replies: “You live there anyway!”
It comes as a surprise then when they both fall for the charms of Nandita (Priyanka Chopra), a cabaret dancer. Meanwhile, tough cop Satyajit Sarkar (Irrfan Khan) sets out to put an end to their illegal activities.
Do not be fooled by its socio-historical backdrop. The period setting is just a convenient plot device in order to recreate the kitsch of a bygone era.
In this respect, it succeeds with the three beautiful gym bunny leads delightfully hamming it up whilst having a romp in the sizzling songs adorned in camp and colourful costumes.
Of the three, Arjun comes out the naturalistic best; Ranveer tries too hard. Priyanka is as gorgeous as ever and emotes through her numerous backless cholis.
It is Irrfan who steals the show by managing to rise above the stale script and inject some genuine humour into the proceedings.
Riddled with clichés, twists and recycled motifs from key classics (the coin toss and train attack sequence from ‘Sholay’, the ‘put the coins in my hand’ dialogue is straight out of ‘Deewar’, etc) this is a camp bickering bolly buddy bromance.
'Gunday' is in cinemas now.
- Dr Anil Sinanan is a Senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University and TimeOut London’s Bollywood film critic.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS