I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the addition of the September, 2018 theatrical release Sui Dhaaga: Made in India, available in both standard format and 4K Ultra-HD. Other 2018 additions from the last two days include the Bengali movie Generation Aami and the Telugu film Rachayitha. Also new is the 2014 Sherlock knockoff Samrat & Co., which neither good nor awful. And if the release of Petta has given you Rajinikanth fever, his 1995 film Muthu is now available for streaming.
As a fan of the hit British TV series Sherlock, a Bollywood version of the same sounded like a disaster. Thankfully, Samrat & Co. is watchable, but just barely.
Bollywood’s Sherlock is Samrat (Rajeev Khandelwal), a detective who relieves stress by partaking in underground boxing matches. Lest the audience get a bad first impression, Samrat explains that his illicit prize money goes to charity. Never mind that boxing seems like a ridiculously dangerous pastime for a man who relies on his intellect to solve crimes.
The “Co.” of Samrat & Co. is just one guy, tabloid TV host Chakrandhar (Gopal Dutt). Just to make absolutely clear that the filmmakers know that they are making a Sherlock knockoff/tribute, Chakrandhar says, “I’m Watson, and he’s Sherlock.”
Apart from a story focused on a brilliant detective and his sidekick, Samrat & Co. has little in common with Sherlock. There are none of the visual effects that define the British series, except for one instance in which the solution to a word puzzle briefly floats on screen. (The film’s few puzzles are simple, and watching a character as supposedly brilliant as Samrat struggle with them is frustrating.)
Khandelwal’s Samrat is a normal guy, as socially at ease as Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is awkward. It’s the supporting cast — like dim-witted Chakrandhar and chatterbox maid Shanti (Puja Gupta) — whose attempts to add quirkiness to the movie prove more irritating than endearing.
The central mystery involves a rich man in Shimla — Mahendra Pratap Singh (Girish Karnad) — whose garden appears to be cursed. After Singh is murdered at his own birthday party, Samrat sorts through numerous suspects to find the killer.
The movie’s cast is huge, and there are way too many potential suspects to keep track of. When Samrat zeroes in on Deepak (Rajneesh Duggal) as a potential culprit, I was hardly sure who Deepak was. His character is introduced while Samrat scans some CCTV footage, and they have one brief conversation before their showdown. The showdown itself includes a bout in the world’s least safe fighting arena, perched on a cliff’s edge and ringed by a wooden picket fence. The insurance premiums must be outrageous.
Kandelwal’s performance is fine, but it’s not especially compelling. Madalsa Sharma is tolerable as Dimpy, Singh’s daughter and Samrat’s sort-of love interest. There’s not much to commend any of the supporting actors besides Shreya Narayan, whose character, Divya (Singh’s other daughter), is refreshingly mute.
As flawed as Samrat & Co. is, it deserves credit for trying something a little different. Mystery isn’t a common Bollywood genre, so the movie at least offers a change of pace. Samrat & Co. is neither great nor terrible.
Just released today is the trailer for the coming-of-age film Purani Jeans, arriving in theaters on May 1.
Also new today is the trailer for the Hindi version of Rio 2, featuring the voices of Imran Khan and Sonakshi Sinha. Rio 2 opens in India on April 11, the same day the English version — featuring the voices of Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway — opens in the U.S.
Rio 2 faces stiff competition on April 11, the day that also sees the release of Kochadaiiyaan, an animated adventure featuring the voices and likenesses of Superstar Rajinikanth and Deepika Padukone. Originally recorded in Tamil, dubbed versions in Telugu and Hindi will also be released (though who knows which version we’ll get here in the States).
There are a number of films set to release on April 25. The most likely candidate to show up in American theaters is Revolver Rani, starring Kangana Ranaut, whose stock has risen considerably since Queen became a sleeper hit.
April 25 also sees the release of Samrat & Co, a mystery based on the British TV series Sherlock. The nods the TV series are obvious in the trailer, though the “Watson” to Erik Estrada look-alike Rajeev Khandelwal’s “Sherlock” character, Samrat, is noticeably absent.
Last among the April 25 releases is Kaanchi: The Unbreakable, directed by Subhash Ghai