Imagine being armed with some of the finest performers and a killer story that weaves them all in delightfully, yet dishing out something that’s shockingly mediocre.
Well, debutant director Atul Sabharwal does just that.
Even though his ‘Aurangzeb’ flaunts its share of strong performances and a storyline that shocks and thrills along the way, yet it falters and fumbles in so many ways, leaving us shockingly disappointed.
Call it his overenthusiasm or his lack of cinematic wisdom, Atul attempts to say a (whole) lot in two-hours-and-twenty-minutes.
From the highhandedness of the men in authority, to the politics of power among thugs, Atul draws parallels that allows all his men to shift allegiance and purpose without (much) logic.
The women, five to be exact, are either good, bad or vulnerable. They, unlike their male counterparts, aren’t shaded in grey and are often left voiceless.
Stirred by the pages of history that highlights Mughal empire’s mighty ruler Aurangzeb’s unremorseful and unethical ways in fulfilling his desire for supremacy, Atul prompts top cop Ravikant to reference and emulate him in more ways than one.
Locked within the boundaries of Gurgaon, which recently transformed from a small town into a big city, two families end up locking horns in an unlikely battle for power.
‘Aurangzeb’ centres around a top cop as he shadows real estate tycoon Yashwardhan to uncover his unlawful life.
His hunt leads him to his own brother’s deep dark secrets, causing him much heartbreak but enough evidence to nail the ‘gangster’.
And, through this journey, we witness how relationships are broken, mended and tweaked according to life’s brutal realities.
Arjun Kapoor manages to hold fort but it’s unfair to expect a one-film-old actor to improve on a restricted script and play two characters – Ajay and Vishal – who are polar opposites.
He’s got his menacing grin and unruly locks in place, much like in ‘Ishaqqzade’, to play the wild child Ajay, but it’s the vulnerability of the refined Vishal that he’s unable to capture impressionably.
For those who’ve been deeply impacted by Lee Tamahori’s ‘The Devil’s Double’, where the stunning Dominic Cooper brilliantly depicts two varied characters, who share only physical resemblance, Arjun’s act is far from memorable.
And for this, we’ve got Atul to blame. He’s busy scripting way too many plots and sub-plots that he doesn’t invest in either Ajay or Vishal, or their face-off.
Instead, he throws more characters our way.
There’s Ravikant’s nephew and police officer Arya, who is forced into the battleground even before he uncovers the real reason for his father’s detachment.
After a dreadful debut in a forgettable ‘Aiyaa’, Malayalam actor Prithviraj redeems his rightful place as a solid performer. If anything, it’s his accent that needs some polishing.
He even manages to match up to the legend - Rishi Kapoor, at least in some scenes.
But, it’s (unquestionably) Kapoor senior who packs the punch in this combat. He eliminates any hiccups in the script, and molds Ravikant into a rock-solid character.
Unfortunately, his juniors or his peers aren’t equipped with his foresight or caliber to do the same.
Veterans Anupam Kher, Jackie Shroff, Amrita Singh, Deepti Naval and Tanvi Azmi are left with token parts that they play earnestly. Even Sikander Kher is given nothing more than a gruff voice and a stern expression to wear.
While the women aren’t offered much in this bad-boy-against-good-boy bang-bang game, debutant Sasheh Aagha is allowed much skin-show, a dance number and a few emotional scenes where she (strangely) shows promise.
‘Aurangzeb’ is unforgivably half-baked and falls short of being a classic. What it does pack is some stellar performances and a promise of better movies in the future.