Boss has some great individual elements that could make up either a great action comedy or a serious revenge thriller, but combining them together in the same movie doesn’t work.
The tone of the film changes without a moment’s notice, and it’s too much to ask the audience to follow along. One minute, we’re expected to be horrified by violence; the next minute, we’re supposed to laugh at it. Lighthearted scenes are followed by a brother threatening to slap his sister unless she locks herself in her room until he says she can come out. Boss never settles on what kind of movie it is.
The story structure is also odd. The film begins with a flashback to a teenage boy saving the life of the mafia don Big Boss (Danny Denzongpa). The don takes the boy under his wing, christening him Boss. Since this is obviously Akshay Kumar’s character as a teen, we expect to then see the man Boss has grown into.
Instead, the story switches to Boss’s father, Satyakant (Mithun Chakraborty), fifteen years later, still lamenting that his eldest son (known to him as Surya) is a criminal. Satyakant sends his younger son, Shiv (Shiv Pandit), to Delhi where the young man gets into trouble defending his lady-love, Ankita (Aditi Rao Hydari), from a creepy politician’s son, Vishal (Aakash Dabhade). The lovers star in a romantic music video on a yacht before Ankita’s homicidal cop brother, Ayushman (Ronit Roy), arrests Shiv.
Finally, thirty minutes into the movie, Satyakant vows to swallow his pride and ask Surya/Boss to save Shiv. When Boss is introduced, on-screen titles read: “Akshay Kumar in and as Boss.” After a funny, five-minute-long fight scene, the opening credits roll. The movie is already a quarter of the way over!
As a comedy, Boss is pretty entertaining. There are some clever scenes, such as Boss trying to surreptitiously beat up some assassins without his father noticing. There’s a humorous recurring bit involving Boss’ “portable rocking chair,” created when his henchman form a human-pyramid-style throne and sway in unison.
As a revenge thriller, Boss is also effective. Chakraborty is strong as the patriarch who chooses his principles over his troubled son. For my money, Roy is the scariest villain in Bollywood. The cold expression in his eyes after Ayushman tosses Satyakant down a flight of stairs is chilling. And nothing beats his method for quieting a group of rowdy grade schoolers: give them a gun and urge them to play Russian roulette.
But these elements belong in different movies. There’s no way to successfully integrate them. Emotional scenes are interrupted by comic relief characters, and again, it’s hard to discern how director Anthony D’Souza expects the audience to feel about violence. It’s funny when Boss breaks a coconut on someone’s head, but not so funny when he impales a sawblade in someone’s chest.
Boss — which is all about relationships between men — portrays women unfavorably. The visual that accompanies Shiv praising Ankita’s eyes, voice, and “mind-blowing attitude” is Aditi Rao Hydari emerging from a pool wearing a bikini. Party scenes feature white women in skimpy outfits getting drunk, though item girl Sonakshi Sinha gets to dance in a modest cocktail dress and abstain from alcohol.
For good measure, Ayushman uses his girlfriend to frame Shiv for rape. Frame him for any other crime, but not rape. Not in a movie that is primarily a comedy.
There’s a lot to like in Boss, enough so that it’s never boring. It just should’ve been two separate movies.