Akshay, Sidharth’s ‘Brothers’ squanders its advantages because of the treatment
‘Brothers’ uses a form of kinetic martial arts to foreground its story of two warring siblings, but it stays, at heart, a Karan Johar film : the crunching bones and spraying blood is as heavily underscored by we-are-family soppiness as it is with deafening background music. The result is a film that actually has a plot (officially adapted from Hollywood film ‘Warriors’, with shades of ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Rocky’ thrown in) riding on competent acts, but which squanders its advantages because of the treatment.
David (Akshay Kumar) and Monty (Sidharth Malhotra) are estranged brothers. A deep wound from their childhood festers strongly, and when they face each other in a ring, they go for the kill. Or do they?
Their backstory with a dissolute, drunk fighter for a father (Jackie Shroff) and large-hearted loving woman for a mother (Shah) is effectively executed. So are the fight scenes. In fact, it must be the first time that there has been such extensive detailing of a high-tech arena, glittering with strobe-lights, lusty spectators, foreign fighters, excitable commentators (Zutshi) in Bollywood. All of it—snarling fighters, hooded faces, uniformed assistants marching up the ramp to swelling beats–feels very WWF and Hollywood and expensively bankrolled reality TV, rolled into one.
Both leading men are well muscled and handy with their slashing fists and feet : the ropey Akshay’s felicity with this `mixed martial arts’ makes his time in the ring believable; the much more buff Sidharth too does what it is required, efficiently.
Nice to see the near-forgotten Kiran Kumar, strutting his stuff in techni-coloured suits-and-ties as the magnate who wants to bring ‘Right To Fight’ – this fictional form of commercial combat– into India. So too Ashutosh Rana, who really needs to be among roles again. Shroff’s haggard face and deeply pouched eyes fit his part : depicting being dead drunk on your feet minus exaggeration is an art, and he does it well ; Shah’s care-worn mother has impact.
The trouble lies in the way it is done. You can show sentiment without dousing it in sentimentality. ‘Brothers’ gets dragged down by its over-wrought mawkishness. The subplot involving Fernandez and a little girl with a serious illness is designed to jerk tears. And it has entirely superfluous songs, particularly an item number by Kareena Kapoor Khan which is so generic that she must have taken expressions and ‘thumkas’ from her previous ones and just rolled them out in this one.
‘Mukkas’ and mush can go together, but not when the latter threatens to drown the former. When the tough get going, audiences are happy to toughen it out too. Here we see the brothers go at each other, limbs snapping at each blow, and all we can hear is ‘bhaiyyaaa’.