Reaching midlife isn't always a crisis; in fact, for many, it's undoubtedly a significant milestone. More so, for many actors who embrace the signs of aging with grace and dignity. Particularly in Hollywood.
Closer home in India, this is far from the truth, for some aging male actors famous across Asia as action heroes have built a career around their extraordinary physicality, and not acting chops. So, they refuse to grow up on screen.
Of course, for most of these good-looking stars, age treats them well, albeit one can spot puffiness settling on their face, which also starts showing signs of having weathered many storms (read hits and flops). They keep making movies, they enjoy being part of dabbling in their second-favourite activity and getting paired opposite 20-something actresses less than half their chronological age. Sadly, by doing so, many of them prolong their midlife crisis.
Salman Khan's avatar as 'Bhai' ('Bajrangi Bhaijaan', 'Dabangg', 'Ready', 'Sultan', 'Tiger') were either roaring successes or at least hits as fans assured him of returns that made producers (in many cases, his brothers, Arbaz and Sohail) dive into the next production with him as the lead star.
Few could compare with Salman Khan when it came to physical appearance even as he romanced an Anushka or a Katrina in their 20s. This 'Bhai' means a lot to many people: if he is somebody's bhai (saviour), he is also somebody's 'Jaan' (heartthrob)! But that was pre-'Pathaan', the blockbuster that has raked in mountains of moolah.
Charming his way to his stupendous box-office success, the Badshah of Bollywood, SRK, proved that while there may be many success stories, none can match up to his charismatic style, unrestrained energy and debonair ways, not to mention his unique talent.
To be fair to Salman, in his last films, he tried his best to not allow a wafer-thin story going pedestrian, and at least made an attempt to infuse scenes with get-up-and-go vibrancy. In this film, he looks bored and uninterested after a while.
Regrettably, not just the actor in him, but also the character he plays seems to descend into the murky swamp of midlife. 'Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan' has him playing 'Bhaijaan', an orphan who is a doting brother to three young men Ishq (Raghav Juyal), Moh (Jassie Gill ) and Love (Siddharth Nigam); he also has three father-like figures (Satish Kaushik, Tej Sapru, Asif Sheikh) he looks up to.
A self-defence trainer, he lives happily with his brothers and uses his biceps, strong arms and tremendous self-discipline and strength of mind. combined with violence. to settle disputes in the neighbourhood. He tries to mend his ways for his girlfriend Bhagya (Bhagyashree), but decides to drop her when he learns that she's in
trouble due to their past rivalry with 'Rowdy' Anna (Jagapathi Babu). He sets out to protect them without their knowledge and focus on protecting his family. As the eldest brother he refuses to get tied down to matrimony he believes it may create disharmony in his big family.
His brothers, who've already found partners, come together to find a match for him. But he doesn't find any girl worth his attention. "Every girl comes close to being 99 per cent, but that 1 per cent" becomes his lifelong wait and search. His swag doesn't work, making him not in the least desirable.
The plot, to say the least, is mindless and characters flit in and out, leaving the space for Salman to dance, mouth inanities (dialogues), beat some men to pulp and shed copious tears in emotional scenes that are crammed in for no reason.
Perhaps, he wants to chart out a different path for himself and blend action and sentiment in equal measure. Sporting long hair, he also refrains from wooing the sexy and svelte Pooja Hegde (Bhagya), a researcher studying antiques (no, not our 58-year old protagonist!), who comes to stay in his house as a tenant.
Based on the Tamil hit 'Veeram', the film, it seems, didn't have to add or delete much from the original. Director Farhad Samji's job must have been simple: cut, copy and paste from the original. If there are some interesting characters as supporting cast, they all contribute towards making 144 minutes of the film a tad watchable with their attention-grabbing personalities and presence.
The top layer of the list is Venkatesh, who plays Bhagya's (Hegde) brother, Rohini Hattangadi as Hegde's grandmother and Ram Charan in a cameo. This is perhaps Satish Kaushik's last appearance and as always, he makes you laugh in his natural delightful manner.
Cinematographer V. Manikandan uses his camera techniques to full advantage as several fight sequences take your breath away. Ravi Basrur has composed a few catchy songs which are choreographed in a manner to enhance Hegde's career as a flexible masala heroine who can also sway to beats with grace.
The film's length seems unending and this cringe fest goes on uninterruptedly. Many actors who ruled the roost lean into their potential, not just as actors but play it safe and not try anything adventurous that may backfire. Wish we also had scriptwriters who could help actors define the emotional turmoil in middle age, navigate change as an inevitable part of the human experience, and dig into the unexplored graciously!
(IANS Rating: **)