Movie Review: Rowdy Rathore (2012)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that pouring water on your head won’t prevent a brain hemorrhage. This suspect piece of medical advice is one of the sillier aspects of the very silly movie Rowdy Rathore.

Billed as Akshay Kumar’s return to the action genre, Rowdy Rathore is more of a “masala” movie that blends together various genres. The first hour is a goofy comedy that primarily follows Kumar’s antics as Shiva, a petty thief in Mumbai. Shiva’s wooing of beautiful country gal Paro (Sonakshi Sinha) is interrupted when he unwittingly kidnaps a little girl who believes that Shiva is her father.

The girl, Chinki, is the daughter of super-cop Vikram Rathore (also Kumar), who looks exactly like Shiva, only with curls at the end of his mustache. Rathore is presumed dead after a failed attempt to free the small town of Devgarh from the grip of a crime lord named Baapji (Nassar). Chinki takes one look at Shiva and assumes he’s Rathore. Baapji’s goons do the same.

Here’s the twist: Rathore’s not actually dead. Rathore survived being shot in the head, but Rathore’s fellow police officers and a few dozen villagers allowed Baapji to believe Rathore deceased, giving the super-cop time to recuperate and finish the job he set out to do. After all, Rathore’s catchphrase is, “I always do what I say.”

The dubious medical advice I mentioned in the opening paragraph comes in to play when Rathore experiences double vision while chasing some of Baapji’s henchmen. The symptoms go away after he dowses his head with cool water, an act that his doctor says saved his life. Had he not, the doctor explains, Rathore’s brain would’ve overheated and hemorrhaged.

Uh, Doc? I don’t think that’s how the brain works.

The symptoms return during a massive fight scene in which Shiva sees his doppelgänger for the first time. Rathore is stabbed in the abdomen and collapses. Just as he’s about to finished off, it begins to rain. The cooling raindrops rejuvenate Rathore — and heal his stab wound, apparently! — and he’s able to kill all of the bad guys.

All of this absurdity would be fine were it not immediately followed by a flashback to Rathore’s first attempt to clean up Devgarh. Baapji and his men are revealed as rapists, kidnappers, murderers, and extortionists. It’s grim stuff that’s followed by an attempt to conjure tears from the plight of poor Chinki, whose mother is dead and who believes the wrong man is her father.

Things lighten up again when Shiva pretends to be Rathore, adding a swagger to the hard-nosed cop’s bravura. He even adds a delightfully absurd line to Rathore’s catchphrase: “And I definitely do what I don’t say.”

This is the strongest and funniest part of the story, and I would’ve liked to have seen more of Shiva impersonating Rathore. Perhaps the story would’ve felt more balanced had the villagers also believed Rathore to be dead, only to have him return to them wackier than before. It could’ve been more along the lines of a Bollywood version of Zorro, The Gay Blade.

Beyond the manipulative plucking of heartstrings at Chinki’s expense, Rowdy Rathore ignores the serious questions the story raises. How does a stickler for law and order like Rathore feel about placing his daughter and his reputation in the hands of a thief? And does anyone plan to tell Chinki the truth?

But Rowdy Rathore is not a serious movie, which is okay. The martial-arts-heavy action scenes are entertaining, even if the stuntmen flop about as though they’re auditioning to be pro wrestlers. Paresh Ganatra is funny as Shiva’s much-abused sidekick, 2G.

The film’s strong point is its collection of musical numbers. Set to very catchy songs, the four dance numbers are the type of large-scale productions which seem increasingly rare on the big screen. They alone are almost worth the price of admission. Just be sure to take Rowdy Rathore‘s medical advice with a grain of salt.

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29 thoughts on “Movie Review: Rowdy Rathore (2012)

  1. Pingback: Opening June 1: Rowdy Rathore « Access Bollywood

  2. Keyur Seta

    That was a very interesting read Kathy. By the way, I am just speechless after knowing how pouring water prevented brain hemorrhage and how rain healed Rathore’s stab wound. Huh? I am mighty pleased I am avoiding this one. Lol!
    I can understand we need to keep logic aside to enjoy such flicks but this is just too much : D

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      The way the scene is shot is hilarious, Keyur. From the cloud’s perspective, we see Akshay lying wounded on the ground far below. The camera follows the path of a solitary raindrop as it lands on Akshay’s forehead, magically healing him. Now that I know the secret healing power of water, I think I’m ready to become a neurologist.

      Reply
  3. TS

    the songs “Aa re pritam pyare’ n ‘ chinta ta ta’ r very catchy. after reading so many reviews one questions come to mind that why every critic, now that includes u Kathy, has to find logic in these types of movies. Movies like this, or Machete, Death Race or crank 2 or Fast five r made for entertainment n r masala movies. Why not just enjoy these movies. we need these types of movies too. Anyway whats ur favorite song from this movie?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      It’s not so much about demanding logic in action movies, TS, as it is about wanting logical consistency within a movie. Filmmakers can set out whatever rules they like for their movies, however silly they may be, but they have to play by the rules they create. It’s a sign of respect for the audience. I want to believe that a filmmaker spent more than an hour writing a script for a multimillion dollar movie. I don’t want to believe that a filmmaker thinks, “As long as stuff is blowing up the audience won’t care about the story, so I doesn’t matter what I write.”

      As for the songs, I’m a sucker for dance numbers that take place at weddings, so I liked “Chamak Challo Chel Chabeli.” But “Aa Re Pritam Pyaare” was really spectacular.

      Reply
  4. Stian Håklev (@houshuang)

    Watched this last night, and found it quite tiring. I found the big item numbers quite tiresome and over the top – I don’t mind one or two good songs in a Bollywood movie, but in this case it was definitively too much. Too much of everything actually, so long and repetitive fight sequences etc. I quite like the “swagger”, slo-mo walking etc from Bollywood “tough man” movies, and this was well done, and some of the comedy with Shiva was nice, even though I never saw much chemistry between him and Paro… All in all quite a disappointment for me, but it seems to have been popular in India, and some reviewers heralded a return to “made in India” movies that don’t try to please the “NRI crowd” :) By all means. There’s space for all kinds of movies.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      I agree about the lack of chemistry between Paro and Shiva, Stian. And I, too, can do without seeing any more love songs where the couple sings next to a waterfall. But I really enjoy lavish numbers with great costumes and a large supporting cast of dancers. To each his (or her) own. :-)

      Reply
  5. TS

    ha ha.. Great blog. Just saw the posters of pretty woman, the game plan, two weeks notice, ghosts of girlfriend’s past ,they r so similar. Thanks Kathy :)

    Reply
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  9. Rishab

    Don’t know why this movie became such a big hit.. Its so foolish and idiotic.. Movies like these are gaining popularity in the Hindi speaking audience and that is worrying to someone who wants to see good cinema.. Btw this was a very well put review… Funny.. :D

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Rishab, because of this movie, I never leave home without a cold bottle of water. Just in case. :-)

      Reply
  10. Rishab

    Hahahaha….!! Maybe i should start doing that too… U never know! : -) or maybe u can try your luck and hope for the rains..!! Hehe.. : -P

    Reply
  11. Gaurav

    Kathy, after reading your reviews of some of these movies, specially the Salman Khan and Akshay films over the last 3 years or so, I realized that maybe you’re not aware these films are all remakes of Tamil and Telugu movies. I’m a north-Indian myself and do not speak either south-Indian language, relying on English subtitles as you do. That said, the originals, specially the Tamil ones are WAY more fun. I recommend you watch those to fully appreciate the crazy stories and characters. Tamil actors are much more accomplished at their craft than the Bollywood cutouts like Akshay and Salman, and the movies are slick, technically superb productions. Its the same crazy mix of drama, action, music and dance, but slightly spicier and done much better. If you watch the Tamil originals, the Hindi remakes begin to pale by comparison. To start with, I’d recommend Ghajini (the original one with Surya v the Amir Khan remake), Pokkiri (Salman’s Wanted), Vinnayatandi Varuvaya (Prateik’s Ekk Deewana Tha), and Siruthai : Cheetah (Rowdy Rathore). The sheer screen presence brought by the lead actor Karthi to the role of Ratnavel Pandian (translated to Rowdy Rathore in the Hindi version) is just amazing. Siruthai is itself a remake of a Telugu movie, Vikramarkudu, but I find the Telugu masala a bit too over the top. Would be interested to read your take on these, if you take up my suggestion.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      I need some kind of a key to keep track of what Hindi films are remakes of other films, Gaurav. Actually, that would be a pretty long list! ;-) I’ve heard before that South Indian action films are often better than the Hindi remakes they inspire.

      From the outside, it’s baffling and hilarious how distinct each Indian region’s movie industry is from all the others. Obviously language issues present a problem (and no one hates reading subtitles more than Americans), but dubbing dialog is much more acceptable in India than it is in Hollywood. Considering that, I’m puzzled as to why South Indian movies are remade entirely rather than just dubbing them into several other languages and distributing them throughout India. It’s funny that each region has its own stars who rarely migrate outside of their home territories.

      To put the Indian system in terms of American geography, Hollywood would be Mumbai, the generally recognized center for “American” movies. Texas would have its own industry with its own stars and dialog in “Texan.” Philadelphia and Chicago might be other regional hubs. So, if Chuck Norris made an action movie in Texas, instead of it becoming widely popular on its own, each region would remake its own version with its own stars. Sylvester Stallone would star in the Philly version, Joe Mantegna in the Chicago version, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Hollywood version. How confusing.

      Reply
      1. Gaurav

        Yep, I used to wonder myself why they simply don’t dub the movies in Hindi and release them nationwide. My conclusion is, and it might surprise you, that the reason is simply racism (not geography or language) – North Indians have more caucasian features and lighter skin, while the South Indians are dark skinned and with non-Caucasian features. The majority of the Bollywood leading men are clean shaven and light colored, with straight hair and slimmer builds. Most of the south Indian leading men have facial hair – Vikram, Surya, Vijay, Karthi and of course Rajini Kanth – and they are shades darker than the Mumbai lot, with shorter, stockier builds. North Indian audiences are not able to accept them as heroes, purely on looks alone, despite their obviously better acting skills than their northern counterparts. A few have seriously tried to break in to the national mainstream industry, but none have really succeeded. From the Tamil industry, Kamalahaasan, Rajini have both done multiple movies in Mumbai. Both have had a few hits too, but none that could “establish” them long term. Chiranjeevi from the Telugu industry gave it a shot. Mohanlal from the Malayalam industry has tried too. These guys are superstars in their regions, and extremely talented too, but the northern Hindi speaking audience has flatly rejected them. Obviously, they prefer to remain kings in their own house than play second fiddle in someone else’s. The business side of Bollywood also forces them to live in Mumbai, which they can not do for any length of time without undermining their own base in Chennai. So, I feel rather than geographic, a closer American analogy would be black cinema v the mainstream national Hollywood industry. Sure, racial tolerance is much higher in the US and Denzel, Will Smith, etc guarantee an opening anywhere in the country, but then you’d never find Denzel or the Fresh prince in a Tyler Perry movie would you?
        Funny enough, south Indian girls have found more acceptance in Bollywood than the men, with a long line of actresses stretching back to Padmini and Vaijayantimala, through Hema Malini, Rekha, Jayaprada, Sridevi and now Asin, Genelia etc. These girls have come to Bollywood and been very successful. Hema, Rekha and Sri were undisputed number 1 in their time and still exercise a lot of influence. Note though, that they uprooted themselves completely from Chennai and moved bag and baggage to Mumbai. Their careers in the south were finished once they did that. They married north Indians. Hema’s daughter recently married a north Indian. Apparently you can not ride in two boats at the same time.

        Even funnier, no north Indian man can play a hero in the south either, but most of the successful girls in Tamil and Telugu films of late have been light skinned north Indian girls from Punjab, Gujarat or Bombay – Naghma, Jyotika, Shriya Saran, Charmi Kaur, Hansika Motwani, Kajal Aggarwal and Tamannah Bhatia etc. So dark skinned south Indian male audiences love to see their dark heroes romancing exotic light skinned northern babes while north Indian men, if they appear at all, are usually cast as negative characters. Ya, I know, its all really crazy.

        But the movies are great fun for all that. One huge reason is the technical superiority. In fact the best technicians – cinematographers (Santosh Sivan), Sound engineers (Rasul Pookutty), choreographers (Raju Sundaram, Prabhu Deva), music directors (AR Rahman) are all from the Tamil industry, not Bollywood. Go figure.

        Reply
        1. Kathy Post author

          I think you’re absolutely right, Gaurav. Racism — or at best, racial preference — doesn’t seem to be often discussed in regards to Indian cinema, despite the mountain of evidence you cited. Add to that the celebrities who endorse skin-lightening products, and there’s a pretty clear sentiment that, if your skin is too dark, you’re not hero material. What struck me as funny when I reviewed Enthiran was this sense of denial of the problem when I noted that all of the men who attempt to rape Aishwarya Rai in the movie (three times!) have significantly darker skin than her:
          “But its not the same in India. We don’t have the Whites and Blacks divison in India like in US. All Indians have the same color…rapist or saint..you can’t differentiate them..”

          Of course, America still suffers from these same problems, so I’m not sitting in judgement. Your comparison of black cinema versus “American” cinema is great, by the way, and more apt than my fake example. You’re also spot-on regarding the impediment of having to uproot oneself and move to Mumbai to find success in Hindi movies, especially if Hindi isn’t one’s native language. It’s so much more difficult than moving to L.A. to work in Hollywood.

          You may want to check out this Top Ten list by J Hurtado at Twitch Film. He mentions how Nawazuddin Siddiqui is all of a sudden one of the most in-demand actors in Bollywood, despite being the guy with the darkest skin in a light-skinned fraternity. My follow-up question for you is: are there any dark-complected actresses who have found success in Hindi films recently? Time to wrack my brain for examples, if there are any to be found.

          Reply
          1. Gaurav

            There are 2 off the top of my head, and interestingly both are not south Indian (that well seems to have dried up lately, with the actress migration working the other way now). The two would be Kajol, whose father was Bengali, and Bipasha, who is Bengali also. Konkona Sen Sharma has also enjoyed some success, specially in non-commercial cinema, and she is half bengali also and darker skinned. It is a definite disadvantage for girls in Bollywood. Lighter skin is almost a requirement.

            Nawaz Siddiqui is enjoying a brief run of success, but his looks will make it very hard for him to achieve mainstream success for any length of time. Before him too, many actors with much more talent have found that Bollywood is all about fair skinned smooth complexioned pretty Punjabi boys. Genuine actors like Naseer, Om Puri, Nana Patekar, Manoj Bajpai, KK Menon, Salim Ghous etc have realized to their dismay and frustration that Bollywood and its mainstream audience simply does not care for their talent. Naseer and Om Puri, whom I rate in the same class as Pacino and De Niro in terms of talent, ability and range are probably the most frustrated actors anywhere in the world. Bollywood’s attachment to fair skin and clean shaven faces is so strong that the last (and probably only) dark skinned man to achieve any lasting success was Mithun Chakraborty, and the last successful leading man with facial hair was Anil Kapoor. I know there is Ajay Devgan (lately spelled Devgn on the advise of a numerologist, believe it or not), but he compensates for his dark skin and mustache with a total lack of acting talent. In fact, Bollywood “chocolate” boys only don mustaches when they want to appear serious and relatable like Aamir in Talaash or Salman in Dabangg.

            Reply
            1. Kathy Post author

              I love that, in some circles, a man isn’t considered “serious” unless he has a mustache. I’ll let my husband know. ;-)

              I’m really hopeful that Irrfan can lead the way for more diversity among leading men in Hindi films, what with his success in Paan Singh Tomar and in international productions. It’s also great that Manoj Bajpai has been much more visible in recent years as well, since he’s one of my favorites. Now, if only he’d be allowed to play good guys instead of villains. I’m not necessarily optimistic, but I am hopeful.

              P.S. My numerologist has advised me to drop the “o” from my last name and change it to “Gibsn.”

              Reply
        2. Keyur Seta

          That was a very insightful comment Gaurav :)

          Ever since my childhood, I have been hearing negative comments for South Indian actors due to their color. Not only North Indians but also those living here in the West (it would create confusion if I call them West Indians. Lol.)

          Even I am not much of an admirer of south heroes (except legends like Kamal Haasan, Mohanlal, Mamooty, etc) but that is purely because of their acting and expressions. But then, I haven’t seen much of southern commercial cinema. I am more exposed to the off beat Kannada and Malayalam movies and I have loved whatever I have seen so far.

          It was a pleasure to read something that nobody discusses, Gaurav :)

          @Kathy
          Your example of celebrities endorsing skin-lightening products is great! Those advertisements infuriate me! It clearly gives a message that it is terrible to be dark!

          Reply
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