Film: Arjun Patiala

Director: Rohit Jugraj

Cast:  Diljit Dosanjh, Kriti Sanon, Varun Sharma, Ronit Roy, Pankaj Tripathi, Seema Pahwa

Rating: 2.5

Arjun Patiala is a movie about ‘the movies’. Not in the sense that it pays tribute to them, but rather it is the first kind of attempt to make a spoof on the larger cop drama — Singham or Dabangg — (not suggesting that it’s the first spoof film) or those that have churned out from film industry as a whole in India.

Rohit Jugraj’s directorial starring Diljit Dosanjh, Varun Sharma and Kriti Sanon in the lead roles began on a note that promised a lot of things especially with an impressing opening sequence that emulated and parodied the 007′ films with an alternate 008′ as Diljit himself.

Diljit’s dance sequence established a mood and expectation that fell right through as the movie ran its course from one sequence to another.

The meta-narrative text began with the script of Arjun Patiala being narrated by a wannabe writer to a producer (played by Pankaj Tripathi).

As the narration unfolds, we are immediately introduced to Diljit Dosanjh, a Punjabi Judo fighter and champion whose excellence in sports lands him a police job in Ferozepur. The fight sequence that plays out in the very beginning of the film is a well-measured move by the makers to show that the hero is not muscular or tall. The ‘Hero’ figure is a lean man with a master judo skill set that can put a 6’4 man to the ground. There is a background score to all victorious moments and that is the 90’s game ‘Mario’s’ point track. In that regard, there is some experimentation with the form of the film apart from the content, which is a welcome in an industry where changes in the structure of ‘film’ are rare to be seen.

A minute later, after Diljit is assigned the role of a cop in Ferozepur, comes that emotional moment wherein the hero has to win the respect of his peers and subordinates; a “Dil se kuch kar ke dikhana” moment that would establish that the hero is all heart underneath. That moment came with punishing two “gundas” with the task of cleaning the police station with a brick of 3.2 kg each on their chests in order to teach them how to respect women. Yet again, this moment was over-emphasized in places not needed and did not deliver its impact at all. It could easily have been edited out without making any substantial change to the hero of the film or the personality that has seeped into all his characters of being underneath all – a-man-good-at-heart.

Diljit Dosanjh is one of the most loved celebrities across the country, but his good-naturedness, inadvertently or not, seeps into the characters he plays and sometimes goes overboard. He could easily do without the baggage of it at times; why to always prove on the screen that you are good at heart? Is it the characters he is given or another kind of artistic conflict?

Every time a character was introduced on screen, from Varun Sharma, Kriti Sanon, Seema Pahwa to Sunny Leone, a big yellow text appeared on the screen mentioning who he/she was. And, in moments completely unnecessary and uncalled for, the text reappeared to tell what was happening or to further the already simplified narrative.

Perhaps, the makers got carried away to an extent that they forgot that audiences do not need to be spoon-fed to such an extent; understood images and narratives need not be told, thereby striking an imbalance in the show and tell-arch of the motion picture.

The gaming sequence was well-used in the anti-climax and everywhere else in the film, especially the part where Diljit is told to search his soul for what he has done by killing his friend ___ and the extent he has gone to create a crime-free district in Ferozepur. This sequence is perhaps, one of the most memorable ones in the film, where he is seen talking to his conscience— that is obviously embodied by his friend, Onida Singh (Varun Sharma) across a mirror.

Various references to films like the iconic rickshaw chase from Shah Rukh Khan’s Main Hoon Na; dangling temple bells and the heroine clad in a white saree as an adjudicator of justice and righteousness from old Hindi films were excellent and well established.

Apart from that, the mainstream trend of showing villains of a certain kind was played around with a lot. In interesting ways, they were shown as not the usual muscular and dark characters but ones that are amateur or are dealing with issues like low haemoglobin in jails.

The mainstream heroine arch was mostly left untouched. Similar forms of representation and entry with a ‘gol-guppa’ eating-sequence were not changed at all, though the makers’ struggle in terms of giving screen space to Ritu Randhawa, played by Kriti Sanon, was apparent.

Arjun Patiala is well-situated and tends to use its production design well. The grand plot of getting rid of the crime scene was well executed and shown, but was belittled and punctured to an extent, that after a point, it became a nagging question: what is it really that the maker is trying to say? To show, make a statement however unimpactful and retract from it, is a film-genre of another kind.

The writing of comedy and comic sequences including the jokes sometimes took itself way too seriously. Stating the obvious could have been ignored; jokes could have been better and so could have been the writing of the overall film.

Despite having a cast of seasoned actors like Seema Pahwa, Pankaj Tripathi, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Ronit Roy, the maker couldn’t keep the film afloat in terms of story, its execution and everything that a genre of this kind has the potential to achieve.

In its motive of ridiculing everything that the mainstream, commercial big-fancy cop drama or in general, any film stands for, the film stretched its seams too far and became an object of ridicule itself. The film is poorly made in terms of thematics, writing, narrative arch and storyline, whereas, well-made as far as experimentation with form, design, music and recreations of iconic moments and some sequences here and there are concerned.

Nevertheless, a first of a kind attempt is appreciated for making the move in the right direction, and perhaps, those who follow suit will develop and further the style with sensibilities that will strike a balance in the film of this genre – especially, with regard to the distance that the maker has to maintain from the text that he is making a spoof of, so much so that one does not, in the end, try to justify the very elements you were hell-bent on ridiculing in the entire film.