Cast: Utkarsh Sharma, Ishitha Chauhan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mithun Chakraborty, Ayesha Jhulka, Zakir Hussain
Director: Anil Sharma
Rating: 1 Star (out of 5)
The film is written, directed and produced by his dad Anil Sharma. Utkarsh Sharma's launch vehicle is understandably loaded heavily in his favour. A father's love knows no bounds. The film frequently grinds to a halt to allow papa's boy to launch into veritable monologues. The trouble is that in the end Genius - has a Hindi movie title ever been more presumptuous? - does no real favours to the debutant. By over-burdening the callow actor, this atrociously misshapen film only exposes his chinks.
It doesn't help that the acting skills of the female lead (Ishitha Chauhan) is even more rudimentary - she simply doesn't have the chops to push her co-star to excel. The IIT Roorkee girl that she plays goes from uncompromisingly ambitious and snooty to cloyingly lovey-dovey and faithful in next to no time. Wish this insufferably long film - it clocks 165 minutes - had the same pace.
The actors are stuck in the innards of a stupendously sloppy screenplay in which anything goes in a way that is reminiscent of the excesses that Bollywood would routinely foist upon audiences in the era in which Anil Sharma began making movies. Utkarsh Sharma, bearing the load of a bloated film, is condemned to mouthing lines like "bachpan hai toh bachpana toh hoga" and "aapke liye toh muft mein bik jaoonga". The former is pearl of wisdom is addressed to his RAW bosses who are exhausted with his youthful enthusiasm, the latter show of generosity is directed at his girlfriend after she enquires if he is free and he responds with "mehenga hoon". That is how smart this young man is. He has mastered both Ved and vigyan (the Vedas and science). He even declares something akin to Garv se kaho hum prachin hai (be proud to be ancient).
Nor is that all. In a crucial scene in the second half, having gone rogue, the Indian security agency's hotshot agent corners a compromised minister and crooked RAW official and thunders: This is the business of patriots, yahaan sirf sanskaar hote hain, woh bhi antim. John Abraham's dialogue-baazi in Satyameva Jayate sound extraordinarily good.
The writing in Genius is that abysmal. It seeks to turn an ordinary looking, slightly built young man into a destructive, insuperable mean machine endowed with abilities of the body and mind that do not sit pretty on his shoulders. Action hero, super spy, lover boy, computer whiz and an invincible patriot, the male protagonist is a man for all seasons and all reasons.
When push comes to shove, the protagonist, Vasudev Shastri, an orphan raised by a Mathura temple priest after the death of his parents in communal rioting, is not averse to feigning insanity. Not that anything he ever does is normal. Right at the outset, after a physically bruising mission in Porbander leaves him with a pronounced limp and tinnitus-induced amplified hearing, is declared "medically unfit to be in the secret services", he is dismissed as delusional. He could be brain-dead soon, the doctor rules. Well, well, isn't the man already a basket case?
As he is wheeled into a psychiatric ward for some quick shock treatment, the script intersperses his dramatic convulsions with a love song on a beach. Talk of the lack of dimaagi santulan (mental balance) - the malady afflicts the makers of Genius as much as it does the film's characters.
The presence in the cast of Nawazuddin Siddiqui - he dons the guise of a terror mastermind who has an old score to settle with India's national security adviser Jaishankar Prasad (Mithun Chakraborty) and schemes to use the hero to serve that end - makes matters worse. Even at half tilt, Siddiqui operates in a zone entirely his own. Yet, Genius will quickly go down as the most forgettable movie he has ever been in.
One cannot but laugh when the younger actor, in a bloodied and badly mauled state, snarls at the baddie: "Tu mujhe rok sakega (Can you stop me)?" No wonder Siddiqui isn't allowed to enter the fray until only a few minutes before the intermission. It is another matter that he, too, cannot do much to salvage Genius. What do you expect a villain to do when he supposed to exude menace by saying "Dhyaan se sun meri baat, nahin maani toh udda doonga sabko" (Listen to me with care, if you do not heed my words, I'll blow everything up?"
The film itself needs no help to implode. Its first half is composed of a string of fuzzy flashbacks designed to showcase Utkarsh's range as an actor, a dancer, a campus star, and a combination of a geek and a cool guy. The emotional spectrum of the character is wide indeed, but do not expect a demonstration of a wide gamut of expressions. The performance stays steadfastly rooted in the same place.
The second half of Genius is unabashed cinematic poop. It is so asinine that it is hard to believe that in this day and age there still are people in the Mumbai movie industry willing to sink money into such a travesty of an action film.
In this maddeningly inept battle of Genius-giri between the good guy and the bad, the deshbhakt and the deshdrohi, the tricolour inevitably gets dragged in a few times. It needs no great intelligence to grasp the sheer shallowness of the posturing. The worse a Bollywood film is these days the more desperate it seems to be to fall back on patriotic fervour as a ploy to gloss over its glitches. But no amount of flag-waving and chest-thumping can deflect from the fact that Genius is an unspeakably shoddy film. Show some self-love and stay away from it. India will take care of itself.