Ruslaan Review: Aayush Sharma Goes All Out In Painfully Bloated Concoction

Ruslaan Review: It has action, music, emotions and a whole lot of hollow rhetoric and bravado, all crammed into two hours of relentless overdrive.

Ruslaan Review: Aayush Sharma Goes All Out In Painfully Bloated Concoction

A still from Ruslaan. (courtesy: aaysharma)

A dead terrorist's son adopted by a no-nonsense police officer grows up with a mammoth chip on his shoulder - come what may, the young man is determined to go out of his way to save the nation from harm and earn for himself the label of a true patriot. He needs little provocation to swing into action. He is, both in body and spirit, invincible to boot.

The eponymous hero is played by Aayush Sharma, who, too, goes all out to prove a point - the lead actor wants to be acknowledged as a heavy-duty action hero capable of carrying an entire film on his shoulders.

Sharma does not stop striving towards that end. It is Ruslaan, the film and the character, that lets him down so bad that there is no way he can crawl his way back into some sort of sanity. The film is a boat that not only has no wind in its sails, it is riddled with holes.

In his third release after Loveyatri and Antim: The Final Truth, he gets all the help that needs from screenwriter Yunus Sajawal and director Karan Lalit Butani. They pull out the stops and craft a film that lets the actor have a completely free run. The film suffers major damage in the bargain.

Ruslaan is a painfully bloated concoction that features an invincible fighter committed to his national and personal mission. At the slightest provocation he launches into a harangue against those that cast an evil eye on India and continually preens about his unalloyed deshbhakti.

Ruslaan is marred by the yawning gap that separates intention and outcome. The protagonist passes himself off as a music teacher who never lets his guitar out of his sight. How we keep wishing that he would choose violence over music.

The man is unable to produce a single passable song. The notes that he strikes are much worse than the mess he creates when he flails his arms and lets his fists fly.

The hero rushes in whenever and wherever danger lurks and goes hell for leather against the enemies of the country even at the cost of rubbing his boss, R&AW agent Mantra (Vidya Malvade), up the wrong way. He revels in defying the orders of his superiors but invariably gets the job done. When you are a patriot, can anything stop you?

Nothing particularly exceptional in there. Most men of action in Hindi action movies that bank on the exploits of tough-guy crusaders follow the same playbook. Ruslaan has nothing new to offer. It has action, music, emotions and a whole lot of hollow rhetoric and bravado, all crammed into two hours of relentless overdrive.

Ruslaan is, in a way, both a reaction to and an extension of the flurry of propaganda films that Bollywood has been producing of late to advocate turbo-charged nationalistic fervour, vilify communities that are singled out for outright othering and peddle selective history to further a particular ideology.

It is a reaction because the protagonist is a Muslim boy out to outdo all pop patriots, contemporary as well as historical, that Hindi films have paraded across the big screen in recent years. But Aayush Sharma is no Akshay Kumar. He is not even a Vidyut Jammwal. His heroics ring hollow because they ride on notions that have done to death.

The character of Ruslaan is an extension because the story begins with a Muslim terrorist receiving his comeuppance. The onus on his son, the lone survivor of the family, to work extremely hard to clear his name.

Ruslaan, for all the deafening noise that it makes about the hero's unwavering, steely loyalty, emphatically reinforces the good Muslim-bad Muslim binary. The bad is exceedingly bad; the good is immeasurably good.

The hero's courage under fire springs from his past as well as the upbringing that he has been blessed with by his adoptive father, a police officer (Jagapathi Babu) who can do wrong and his wife. Ruslaan also has a girlfriend (Sushrii Shreya Mishraa), who surfaces every time there is a song to be mounted amid the serious blood-letting that the man is compelled to unleash in the line of duty.

The biggest problem with films like Ruslaan is that they never have anything that could allow the audience to feel that they are watching it for the first time. The lack of novelty and the bordering-on-the-bombastic dialogues give the film a core that is so vacuous that it can hold nothing at all.

To be fair, Aayush Sharma spares no effort to pull off the action sequences - the performance bears strays signs that he is evolving as an actor - but he is still found significantly wanting in terms of emoting prowess.

He is especially shown up in the presence of Jagapathi Babu, who pulls his histrionic weight to far greater effect despite being saddled with unconvincing situations and lines. The other actors in the cast are painted into a corner from where they have no chance of escaping.

As a one-man-killer-squad action flick, Ruslaan - the word means lion - is inevitably a single-trick pony. What makes matters worse is that the pony has terribly weak legs. It is unable to make much ground. No matter what it does in its attempts to accentuate its momentum and impact as the good-versus-evil drama careens out of control, it falls flat.


Aayush Sharma, Jagapathi Babu, Sushrii Mishraa, Vidya Malavade


Karan L Butani