Last year, it was being said that remaking films originally made in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam was no longer a feasible idea. Many films, from the different industries based in the south, were now designed as pan-India films. Also, many high-profile remakes like ‘Jersey’ and ‘Vikram Vedha’ had failed to make a mark at the box-office. However, the super-success of ‘Drishyam 2’ proved, yet again, that following any kind of trend is a bad idea.

The huge box-office returns of ‘Drishyam 2’ must have also bolstered the confidence of its leading man Ajay Devgn who was shooting for ‘Bholaa’ at that time. ‘Bholaa’, which also has Devgn credited as the director, is an official remake of the Lokesh Kanagaraj directed action thriller ‘Kaithi’ which released in 2019. Apart from Ajay, the Hindi remake features Tabu, Deepak Dobriyal, Sanjay Mishra and Gajraj Rao in principal roles.

ACP Diana (Tabu) manages to confiscate 900 kilograms of drugs from a bunch of goons who report to a gangster named Ashwathama (Deepak Dobriyal). Ashwathama and his elder brother Nithari (Vineet Kumar) run a drug cartel comprising of a huge network of criminals who work for them in different parts of the country. After confiscating the drugs, ACP Diana and her team hide them in Lalganj Police Station, a massive police station that was built in the British Era and has a secret basement. After finishing this task, Diana, along with 50 police officers, reach IG Jayant Malik’s (Kiran Kumar) residence to attend his retirement party. At the party, the officers faint owing to their drinks being spiked. Diana is the only one who doesn’t faint as she didn’t have a drink. In this situation, Diana seeks the help of Bholaa (Ajay Devgn), an ex-convict who has just come out of prison after completing a 10-year term, to help her out.

After watching it a couple of years back, I revisited ‘Kaithi’ recently and was bowled over by it yet again. The film, which was based on a solid concept, offered a bucketful of entertainment and kept you at the edge of your seats throughout its duration. I would have been content with a frame-to-frame remake but that’s not what Ajay and his team of writers () do here. While they borrow the main plot points from the original film, they add a lot of elements to it which dilute the impact of the narrative. Another big issue with the film is that a lot of things unfold in a hurried manner and because of that, you don’t quite connect to the characters and many of the situations they go through. Perhaps, this was done to accommodate a flashback, which was not there in the original film, and a couple of other sequences that come across as needless inclusions.

Just like ‘Shahzada’, which released last month, ‘Kaithi’ serves as yet another example of how not to remake a film. Unlike ‘Kaithi’, ‘Bholaa’ lacks nuance. While stylized frames are prioritized, storytelling takes a backseat. The writers seemed to have put in a lot of effort to ensure that there are enough differentiating elements between ‘Kaithi’ and ‘Bholaa’. There has also been an attempt to put together a screenplay that would cater to the sensibilities of a ‘pan-India audience’. This is exactly what they shouldn’t have done. While some of the lines are impactful, the dialogues come across as corny at most places. The adapted screenplay, which largely adhere to templates, also doesn’t give much importance to detailing. For instance, when constable Angad Yadav (Sanjay Mishra) arrives at Lalganj Police Station, he tells his colleague that he has been in the service for 40 years. Later in the film, he informs Bholaa that he is 55 years old. If we take this information into account, then constable Angad Yadav has been working in the police department from the time he was a 15-year-old teenager.

A lot of thought has gone into designing the action sequences. While the Mad Max-style sequences impress you initially, they do not really make an impact in the latter half of the film. There is an action sequence in the forest where you see Bholaa fighting with muscular henchmen whose bodies have been lathered with oil. Though the sequence is supposed to be set in a forest, you see dilapidated cars around. The way the sequence has been staged, you get the feeling that you have stepped into a music video. In the original film, the raw and rooted action sequences left a much better impact. The songs and the background score have been put together by Ravi Basrur. While one song (‘Nazar Lag Jayegi’) is memorable, the rest of the songs do not really leave an impact. The background features a bunch of standout pieces but gets too loud and jarring at times. The camerawork (Aseem Bajaj) is very good. The VFX (NY VFXWaala) is largely impressive.

Ajay Devgn delivers a solid performance as Bholaa. He is as good in the action sequences as he is in the emotional scenes. Tabu, as always, delivers an effective performance. Deepak Dobriyal plays a slightly gimmicky character (very different from how it was in the original) but leaves a mark with his pitch-perfect performance. Amala Paul does well in the limited scope (she doesn’t have a dialogue) she gets. Gajraj Rao and Vineet Kumar, the other two antagonists, get limited scope. Sanjay Mishra is wonderful as constable Angad Yadav. Amir Khan gets good scope and performs well as Kadchi.

‘Bholaa’ is Ajay Devgn’s fourth film as a director after ‘U Me Aur Hum’, ‘Shivaay’ and ‘Runway 34’. In each of his films, Ajay has shown a flair for stylized visuals. While he is a competent director, what he needs is a compelling story.

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