Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Jimmy Sheirgill, Mahie Gill, Chitrangada Singh, Soha Ali Khan, Kabir Bedi, Deepak Tijori, Pamela Bhutoria
Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia
Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5)
In the crumbling, amoral universe that saheb and biwi inhabit - Jimmy Sheirgill and Mahie Gill reprise their roles - well-past-their-prime royals employ wicked, wicked ways to manipulate each other and their susceptibilities. But do their exertions make for great cat-and-mouse drama? Certainly not quite to the extent, or in the manner, that the first two entries of the series - Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster(2011) and Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns (2013) - did.
Pretty much like the political prowess that the film's fading, flailing feudal figures and their cohorts exercise, the potential of the premise to deliver surprises has, on the evidence of this outing, waned significantly. The twists and turns that Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3 springs upon the audience have an arbitrary, laboured ring to them, what with new entrant Sanjay Dutt (in the guise of an angry-as-hell Uday Pratap Singh, a man who's made 'bad choices' and has been in exile for two decades) stomping around first a smoky London nightclub called House of Lords and then a palace-turned-heritage hotel back in Uttar Pradesh like a clueless grizzly bear that has strayed out of its natural habitat.
It is around this very disillusioned, defiant man's talent for emerging unscathed from Russian roulette face-offs that the plot of this film revolves. But the shots it yields generate more noise - tame clicks and big bangs - than genuine excitement. The blank shots reverberate through the film, robbing it off the gunpowder-dry quality that is of the essence in this dark, bloody, dusty UP milieu where marriages aren't made in heaven and human bonds teeter on a razor's edge.
It has taken the third Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster instalment five years to take shape. One had expected time to add value to it. That does not seem to have happened. Devoid of the delirious energy, sly swerves and deeply melancholic core that defined the earlier entries, Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3 struggles for the most part to hit the ground and run. Its sparks, too far and few between to form a recognizable pattern, do not yield the expected full-fledged firestorm. The desperate and devious methods that the greedy, going-for-broke men and women take recourse to fall all too quickly into a mechanical rut.
One key character asks the 'saheb' of the pack, Aditya Pratap Singh (Jimmy Sheirgill): Is your blood still royal, or have the years of being in politics turned it into water? He does not answer the question, but taken in the overall context of the film, there can only be one response to that pointed query - royalty isn't just a matter of blood, it is just as much a state of mind.
he malevolent characters that screenwriter Sanjay Chauhan and director Tigmanshu Dhulia's script rustle up in addition to Aditya Pratap and his ambitious, alcoholic wife Madhavi (Mahie Gill) exist in a limbo in the absence of the narrative support that could have turned them into meaningful pegs in a larger social commentary on a bunch of people so deeply entrenched in their sense of entitlement that they cannot see beyond their noses - and their guns.
A political party is alluded to, workers are addressed from a desk behind which hangs a portrait of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar and preparations for an upcoming polls are discussed but Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3 jettisons the hurly-burly of political machinations at the altar of perfunctory personal shenanigans.
The role essayed by Sanjay Dutt (he comes across as rather rusty, to say the least) is framed against two others - his father Maharaja Hari Singh (Kabir Bedi) and brother Vijay (Deepak Tijori), both of whom are upset no end when the profligate elder son returns to India, deported from the UK following a murderous assault on an Englishman who dares to needle him in his den. Uday Pratap demands his share of the royal property, but there is little left in the family's kitty to spare. So conspiracies are afoot in the palace and elsewhere, endangering the lives of innocents like the courtesan Suhani (Chitrangda Singh), Uday Pratap's mistress.
Lives do not count for much in the haveli of Aditya Pratap either. Guns are whipped out and fired at the slightest provocation. While Aditya, convicted for murder, cools his heels in jail, his wily consort merrily plots to keep him there as long as possible. When he returns home, his wife offers truce. He accepts, but with many riders that are left to the daughter (Pamela Bhutoria) of his fiercely loyal retainer (Deepraj Rana, another franchise fixture) to enforce.
The performances, led by the ever-reliable Sheirgill's, are all up to scratch, but one wishes the female roles weren't so underwritten. Mahie Gill, playing the woman who cares two hoots about moral niceties, works with a familiar bag of tricks. She still sways in an inebriated state to Lag jaa gale ke phir yeh haseen raat ho na ho and gives no quarters when faced with faced with threats and inducements. Some of the tics come off, some don't.
Soha Ali Khan (as Aditya's second wife) has only two and a half scenes. Chitrangda Singh as Uday Pratap's mistress is allowed more but her character does not see much palpable development. One of the actresses in the cast who certainly deserved greater mind space, and not just footage, is Pamela Bhutoria, playing Aditya's tech-savvy protector standing in for her father who has gone into hiding.
This bitter battle for fast-vanishing turf centres on the pressing need to protect the family 'reputation'. In this fictional neck of the woods, conventional honour isn't a big deal and the act of flouting laws and norms is worn as a badge of courage. The nautch girl puts the tussle into context when she advises the feckless, untrustworthy Vijay Pratap to tread with care. She says to him with all the curtness at her command: "Jab naam ke alawaa kuch no bacha ho toh naam ko bacha bacha ke chalna chahiye (When nothing but your name survives, do all you can to protect that name)."
That statement could well be directed at the makers of Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3. The title has a resonance thanks to the impact that the film's two predecessors had made. Frittering it away on a flimsy Russian roulette-style effort isn't a good idea. So when the team decides to come up with another follow-up - the final moments of this film suggest that the fourth may not be far away - it will have to go all guns blazing. Or not at all.