This Article is From Mar 30, 2023

Bholaa Review: Slapdash Rehash That Rides Solely On Ajay Devgn's Star Power

Bholaa Review: Tabu, of course, makes the most of the footage that she gets but still has to settle for second-fiddle treatment.

Bholaa Review: Slapdash Rehash That Rides Solely On Ajay Devgn's Star Power

Ajay Devgn in Bholaa. (courtesy: ajaydevgn)

Cast: Ajay Devgn, Tabu, Raai Laxmi, Amala Paul, Deepak Dobriyal, Sanjay Mishra

Director: Ajay Devgn

Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)

A remake that makes exceedingly heavy weather of an old formula. Bholaa, produced and directed by lead actor Ajay Devgn, is unlikely to have you shouting bumm bumm bhole in joy. The film is a bummer. Loud, prone to excess and wilting under its own weight, its creaks and croaks its way to a climax that issues a threat - there is more on the way.

Bholaa, official remake of the Tamil hit Kaithi (of which, too, there is a sequel in the works), sucks out whatever air there was in Lokesh Kanagaraj's film and delivers a stale, slapdash rehash that rides solely on Devgn's star power. He gives it his all, but that is hardly enough to paper over the massive creases.

The screenplay by a quartet of writers (Aamil Keeyan Khan, Ankush Singh, Sandeep Kewlani and Shriidhar Dubey) puts the actor front and centre. That is all there is to the film apart from the visual veneer that Aseem Bajaj's cinematography imparts to it.

Bholaa deviates from the Kaithi script in significant ways. But barring the replacement of a male Indian Police Service officer with a tough woman in uniform, the tweaks do not count for much. Worse, they damage the film's chances of being passed off as a middling thriller.

One key respect in which Bholaa differs from Kaithi is in the way the hero is projected. In the original screenplay, he was a tough guy who never lost his corporeal qualities. He felt hunger, was wracked by doubts and experienced physical pain while going about his job.

In Bholaa, the just-freed prisoner is sought to be raised to the level of an all-powerful deity - to the status of Shiva the Destroyer and the Protector, no less. He is a man of few words but when he speaks, he delivers stuffy homilies rather than take recourse to the believable language of a man desperate for a fresh shot at life.

The emotional quotient of the story - a convicted father who has never seen his daughter is granted a remission of his life sentence and is on his way to meet the girl who lives in a Lucknow orphanage - is severely undermined by the projection of Bholaa as an invincible larger-than-life figure endowed with the power to return at will from the jaws of death any number of times.

He is just the sort of superhuman that superintendent of police Diana Joseph (Tabu) is looking for as the force faces double trouble. One, nine hundred kilos of cocaine seized in a major drug bust and kept in a secret bunker is in danger of being taken back by a vicious gang led by a coke-snorting sadist Ashwathama alias Ashu (Deepak Dobriyal). He is the younger brother of an elusive drug kingpin (Vineet Kumar) nobody has ever spotted in public.

Two, 40 policemen, knocked out cold by alcohol spiked with Rohypnol, are being ferried to a medical facility 80 km away. The angry criminals are out to waylay the rundown lorry and kill the five cops who intercepted their truck and seized their contraband consignment. Diana enlists Bholaa's support to save the cocaine and the cops. The action unfolds in the course of one night that sees a series of explosive action set pieces on the road, in a forest and inside a police station.

In the police station, an ageing havildar, Angad Yadav (Sanjay Mishra), finds himself in the thick of the action. Stranded with three students who have been arrested for drunken behaviour and a girl who is love with one of the boys, the policeman is charged with keeping Ashu and his murderous men at bay until Diana, Bholaa and Kadchi, a biryani caterer roped in to guide the cops out of the woods.

With Bholaa firmly on her side, Diana has nothing to fear. The guy is more than a handful for the armies of menacing men deployed to stop him in his tracks. He can fight them off with his bare hands, cleavers and daggers with the same ease with which he wields a trishul and a rapid-firing multiple-barrel gun.

The trident, which had no place in Kaithi, is brought in for the purpose of endowing the hero with a divine aura that instantly dwarfs the bad guys. But no matter what he does to establish his insuperability, the dance of death that Bholaa unleashes across several action sequences is monotonous and laboured.

With Devgn towering over everything else (and that includes the screenplay) characters who mattered in Kaithi are reduced to complete nonentities. Among the worst sufferers are an undercover cop who infiltrates the gang of drug peddlers and a compromised police officer (Gajraj Rao), who strikes a deal with the drug dealers. They languish on the fringes of the plot.

No different is the fate of Kiran Kumar, playing an inspector-general of police whose retirement bash is where his subordinates consume the poisoned potion that leaves them sedated and dangling between life and death, and Makarand Deshpande in the guise of a jail inmate who tells everyone within earshot stories of Bholaa's legendary exploits. He is no ordinary bloke, the raconteur insists. Jab yeh bhashm lagata hai pata nahin kitno ko bhashm kar deta hai (when he applies holy ash to his forehead there is no count of how many he sends to their doom).

The secondary and tertiary characters are given no space at all to develop because Bholaa, which is precisely the same length as Kaithi, is focussed squarely on ensuring that the lead actor does not cede any ground to the others in the cast. Tabu, of course, makes the most of the footage that she gets but still has to settle for second-fiddle treatment. Only two other actors are allowed their moments - Deepak Dobriyal (oozing menace) and Sanjay Mishra (exuding simmering doggedness).

Amala Paul, in a non-speaking part, makes a fleeting appearance in a flashback meant to explain why Bholaa's life has turned out the way it has. It is a gratuitous addition that only slows down the film and does no justice to the actress.

Kaithi was a songless film with a near-perfect background score by Sam C.S., who factored sounds emanating from within the frames into the film's musical spine and created ample room for evocative variations in pitching and decibel levels to accentuate the action sequences.

Bholaa has its share of songs, including an item number performed by Raai Laxmi. But the background music, obstreperous and overwrought, does not take a backseat. Composer Ravi Basrur gives Bholaa the KGF treatment and rustles up what amounts to an assault on the eardrums.

The relentless cacophony is, of course, of a piece with what Bholaa is out to achieve. It is a film that goes the whole nine yards and loses its way.


Ajay Devgn, Tabu, Raai Laxmi, Amala Paul, Deepak Dobriyal, Sanjay Mishra


Ajay Devgn