Bollywood has come of age — but unfortunately the signs of maturity are only shown by filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Bhardwaj whereas people like Farah Khan, who have been a part of the film fraternity for quite some time, are stuck in their own bubble. Her latest venture, Tees Maar Khan, testifies to the fact that while the choreographer-turned-director may like to make big-budget films, she fails to make meaningful use of the money she spends.
Starring Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif in the lead roles and Akshay Khanna in a supporting role, the film follows the story of a local conman known as “Tees Maar Khaan” and explores how he manages to pull off the biggest train robbery using his dodging skills and charismatic personality. True to the traditions of Bollywood masala flicks, the story has no layers and to call it a film about a conman is an exaggeration because technically it falls under only one genre — “Farah Khan Filmmaking”.
One must appreciate Farah Khan’s eye for casting — Akshay and Katrina are the only couple to give back-to-back blockbusters since the once-celebrated Shahrukh and Kajol duo. Akshay Kumar gives a phenomenal performance; the cheesy smiles and gestures that the actor invented in Hera Pheri and which have now become a part of his onscreen persona, brought life to a dead story and even deader screenplay. Katrina too manages to pull through this time because all she was required to do was overact and her emotive performance is perfectly suitable for her role. But it is Akshay Khanna who gives his best performance by far since Dil Chahta Hai. His over-the-top turn as Atish Kapoor manages, in a couple of scenes, to even steal the limelight from Akshay Kumar.
As for the music — that crucial factor in any Bollywood masala flick, that consumes the most time and money, and contributes the least to the narrative — Tees Maar Khan’s is below average. A useless qawalli “Wallah re Wallah” was forced into the film just to give Salman Khan a cameo appearance. The title track, an English version of the song Tees Maar Khan, sets the mood for the audience — a couple of blondes are shown pole-dancing with an animated newborn baby. Then comes the film’s most celebrated song and its main selling point. . . “Sheela Ki Jawani”. The tune is catchy and Katrina looks stunning but the composition is below average and comparing it with “Munni Badnaam Hui” is an overstatement. “Munni Badnaam” is a proper item number with Malaika executing every thumka perfectly whereas “Sheela Ki Jawani” is just Katrina wearing sexy clothes, which is hardly enough to crown her as the queen of the item girls.
Overall Tees Maar Khan could have been much better had the filmmakers worked a little on the dialogue and the story. Popular con films like Catch Me If You Can, Confidence and even Bluff Master are about sharp people and have memorable dialogues. The best TMK could come up with was: “Tawaaif ki luteti izzat bachana” or “Tees maar Khan ko pakarna bekaar hai”.
After a classy film like Om Shanti Om, which had more than just great sets and catchy music (Shahrukh Khan, anyone?), TMK disappoints terribly. It tries to follow the same formula but, this time around, the audience finds it stale.
Post-TMK, Akshay Khanna will get better offers from Bollywood, Katrina will get spicier roles, and Akshay Kumar will be more cautious about co-productions because only “Sheela Ki Jawani” cannot make you a successful producer. But as far as the film itself goes, slick marketing has played a greater role in its success than either script or substance.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, February 13th, 2011.