Among screenwriting jobs, Brothers: Blood Against Blood should be as easy as it gets. The movie is an official remake of Warrior, a great Hollywood film by Gavin O’Connor. Translate the dialogue, relocate the action, cast some Bollywood stars, and boom, you’re done. So why is Brothers so bad?
Warrior is superbly written. Every character has clear motivation and a goal in every scene. Background information is doled out efficiently. The plot is brisk.
For some reason, director Karan Malhotra and his screenplay adapter/wife, Ekta Pathak Malhotra, abandoned the original film’s efficiency in favor of overly long melodrama. The characters in Brothers are left adrift. We know too much about their history, but nothing about what they want right now.
Former alcoholic Gary Fernandez (Jackie Shroff) emerges from prison sober but unhinged. His son, Monty (Sidharth Malhotra, no relation to the director), brings his father home, watching as the broken old man sees the ghost of his dead wife Maria (Shefali Shah) in every corner. Gary wants to know why his other son, David (Akshay Kumar), hasn’t come to meet him.
David is a high school physics teacher, burdened by the cost of his daughter’s dialysis. He earns some cash in an illegal street fight, but his bruises cost him his job. David’s wife, Jenny (Jacqueline Fernandez), worries about the danger of his return to the ring, but he can’t resist the allure of fighting in India’s first televised mixed martial arts tournament, Right 2 Fight (R2F). Neither can Monty.
Most of the copious flashbacks in Brothers are time-wasters (really, we need to see David and Jenny falling in love?). The only useful one explains why the brothers are estranged. Monty is Gary’s son from an affair, and David blames his younger half-brother for destroying his family. Maria makes is clear that she loves Monty as much as her biological son, but David doesn’t care.
The single biggest problem in Brothers is that the Malhotras think that David is a hero. Having a sick kid may make him sympathetic, but it doesn’t automatically mean he’s a good person. During a match at R2F, David is so enraged that he continues to pummel an unconscious opponent, even as his physics students watch on television. (Gary is proud of him for this. What a guy.) David is the one who turned his back on his little brother, and he apparently never tried to reach out to Monty in the years since.
It’s not clear how Monty spent the decades that his father was incarcerated. When he starts his fighting career, he’s terrible, and he doesn’t decide to pursue it seriously until halfway through the movie. There’s a hint that, because Gary is a former fighter, Monty fights to gain his father’s approval, but that storyline goes nowhere.
Sidharth provides no help in elucidating his character’s motivation because he has only two emotions: sad and bewildered. When Monty isn’t moping, he’s flinching from the bright lights of the arena, as though he’s a defrosted caveman fearfully trying to comprehend the modern world.
Akshay is a trained martial artist, but his salt-and-pepper beard makes him look too old to play a competitive fighter. It looks like Sidharth is fighting his dad while his grandpa, Jackie Shroff, watches. David’s a bad enough guy as is, and Akshay doesn’t do anything to make him more likable.
The two women in the cast — Jacqueline and Shefali — give the strongest performances, but they cry in every one of their scenes. The excess of melodrama peaks when David looks at his battered brother in the ring and hallucinates Monty as a smiling little boy. It’s laugh-out-loud funny.
Another bit of unintentional — but totally predictable — comedy in Brothers: David’s daughter is called “Poopoo.” The ladies in the theater with me hooted every time someone said her name.
Nothing happens quickly in Brothers. Something as simple as a character walking into the arena takes several minutes. An inordinate amount of time is devoted to the R2F promoter, who has nothing to do with the main story. There’s a lengthy item number featuring Kareena Kapoor Khan dancing in a Benihana, intercut with scenes of David training, for who knows what reason.
Brothers isn’t bad in comparison to Warrior, it’s just bad. Why would anyone watch this when they could just rent Warrior?