By Subhash K. Jha
Film: “Raja Natwarlal”; Actors: Emraan Hashmi, Paresh Rawal, Kay Kay Menon and Humaima Malick; Director: Kunal Deshmukh; Rating: ***
“Tu apna kiss karta rahe,” Paresh Rawal sarcastically scoffs at the ‘serial kisser’ Emraan Hashmi after he catches him necking Pakistani actress Humaima in a lift in Cape Town.
These inhouse jokes, I tell you! They are the life and death of a certain kind of cinema where the script has to be far clever than the audience. In “Raja Natwarlal”, a con caper with a lot going for it at least on paper, Emraan has little to do that could catapult him to the next level of his career. He swings along in the low tide of this film’s too-clever-for-its-own-good plot, happy to play the “lovable” (giggle!) con-man who chances on a scam much bigger than he had bargained for.
The film is essentially a cat-and-mouse chase between Emraan’s Natwarlal accompanied by a wry rogue named Yogi (Paresh rawal, giving a terrific shape to his ill-defined role) and a business tycoon in Cape Town named Vardha (Kay Kay Menon) whose passion for cricket makes him a sitting duck for a cricket scam masterminded by the aforementioned con persons who, like the script, is not half as clever as he’s like to believe.
Hence, entire banks and automobiles are sham-constructed within hours to dupe the kingpin villain.
Watching Kay Kay fall into the facile boobytraps laid down by Emraan, Paresh and their accomplices we soon know why a fool and his money are parted before we can say ‘Subrato Roy’.
Like a woman during her time of the month, the script here has its good and bad moments. While the basic premise of getting the better of a powerful adversary works, some of the individual components in the plot such as the pre-climactic set-up where Kay Kay Menon’s character is properly had, makes us wonder how a man who has accumulated billions can be so dumb.
Love does it to a lot of smart people. Here it is cricket. Director Kunal Deshmukh had earlier described the complex affinity between cricket and avarice in “Jannat”. To its credit, it must be said that “Raja Natwarlal” is a far more tightly-wound and original idea that flounders only when the characters try to act smarter than the script allows them to.
The narrative never slumps in its interest-level, though a lot of times the material doesn’t permit the characters to rise above the limitations imposed on the material by the caper genre. Every character must perforce wear many masks. Nothing is what it seems. Everyone has a wink and smirk hidden under the sleep surface. And every character is finally in it for money.
You may not be convinced by some of the more steep twists and turns in the plot. But the actors go a long way in concealing the inconsistencies in the storytelling. While Paresh Rawal, Kay Kay Menon and Deepak Tijori (in an endearing cameo) add to the dapper caper’s watchability-level, engaging actors like Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub (as a meandering assassin) and Sumeet Nijawan (the latter brilliant as a corrupt cop) are wasted in underwritten parts.
Humaima Malick wears outrageously low-cut ghagras in her dance-bar numbers, with expressions to match. Is this really the actress who wowed us in Shoaib Mansoor’s “Bol”?
Sassy and slick, “Raja Natwarwal” is a con caper done up in playful shades and mischievous flavour. It’s enjoyable while it lasts. But you don’t come away with anything besides the feeling that the material should have carried for heft. If only everyone was not busy being someone they are not.