Onto the final release of the weekend and I have finished watching the second “Boycott” film of the weekend Raksha Bandhan starring Akshay Kumar. The star hasn’t been in good form lately with films like Bachchan Panday and Samrat Prithviraj being absolute duds. But ever since the time the trailer of Raksha Bandhan was out, there was a sense of hope of a revival where I did get to see glimpses of Akshay Kumar from the mid 2000s who would excel in comedy as well as dramatic scenes. To couple it, the film was directed by Aanand L Rai who I believe is a prolific filmmaker whose last film Atrangi Re also was with Akshay Kumar. Ignoring the Boycott Gang and their version of the reviews, I did visit the theatres with much hope. So then does Raksha Bandhan manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Raksha Bandhan follows the story of an elder brother who has 4 sisters who need to be married off before he himself would get married. Now, films like these are the hardest the review in my opinion. Because neither are they exceptional neither are they too bad, these are what we call middling films which have their moments yet they aren’t quite there. The story here is simple and relevant if you look at it in its entirery. However, you can’t help but think that the writers did go slightly over the top especially in the first hour to establish the regressive nature of the character(I will discuss this more in detail in this section). Another drawback was its length. Now you might argue that the film was just 110 minutes long then how is that an issue. The issue is that the film is atleast 30 minutes short and its runtime doesn’t allow you to connect with the characters(I will again explain this in detail).
The one thing that you instantly notice once the film begins is the tone of the drama which is loud from its onset. I wonder if the writers couod have ensured a more subtler tone because this does get jarring after a point. In between there are a few scenes in its world building phase which will make you smile and laugh. The setup here is also as loud as the tone of the drama. I understand the point of view of the writers who needed to showcase a regressive trait in the protagonist only for him to have a change of heart in the second hour. But to full on hammer its way home was definitely not the right approach. It is safe to say that the writers did go overboard with this aspect. For instance, the protagonist does call his own sisters names regarding their body type or skin tone. In a separate instance, he beats up a bunch of strangers who were eve teasing his sisters only to announce the very next moment that those who eve tease should marry that girl too. These moments did make me cringe.
But there are several heartwarming moments too in the screenplay. There are some genuine moments of comfort where the love which the protagonist has for his sisters is shown and vice versa too. I really wished there was little buildup to the marriage scene which could have been used as foreshadowing in the second hour.
The second hour does have some interesting twists and turns in a drama which is most definitely melodramatic. I just wonder if the twist was introduced at the halfway stage only to have enough time to develop the drama further. This is because the emotions just don’t touch you enough given the mad rush in the screenplay. When I did sit through Laal Singh Chaddha, I felt every bit of the emotions in it. But here, even a death in the screenplay had me unmoved which was unfortunate because of zero buildup. There is a rousing and a rather emotional scene which follows that did reach me and very well enacted too. But the mad rush did continue in the final act which was used as a passing reference which instead could have focused on the journey of the sisters. The messaging is conflicted here coupled with a decent enough love story of the protagonist which forms the screenplay which is exactly that – relevant but just about decent although consistently watchable.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues range from being witty to being cringy and regressive as well. It does boil down to the same point of going for an overkill instead of keeping things subtle. The music is pretty good and goes well with the mood of the drama. The BGM is adequate bit it surely could have bern much better. Director Aanand L Rai has done a pretty good job although he is nowhere near his absolute best here. I wish some time was given to the setup and fillers in between with a softer tone which would have resulted in a better product.
The performances are really good here. Neeraj Sood and Abhilash Thapliyal have their moments to shine especially in the backend if the drama. Sahil Mehta as Lala’s right hand man is excellent and has a lovely presence onscreen. Deepika Khanna does a good job as does Sahejmeen Kaur who is supremely confident in front of the camera. Smrithi Srikanth has her moments to shine and she does a good job. Sadia Khateeb who was previously fabulous to watch in Shikaara, looks so pretty here. And she does a brilliant job too. Her charming presence does light up the screen and I really wish to watch more of her going forward. Bhumi Pednekar is pretty good too although I did wish her character had a softer tone to her(a complaint which I had with almost all characters, no fault of theirs though). Akshay Kumar as Lala Kedarnath does does glimpses of his supremacy from mid 2000s. He looked extremely comfortable here in comic scenes and he did excel in some of the most dramatic scenes as well. This is more of the Akshay Kumar we know and would like to watch.
Despite its shortcomings, Raksha Bandhan is a relevant social drama with some good performances which makes for a decent one-time watch. Available in a theatre near you.