Tashan

2008, Movie, NR, 160 mins

Review

TASHAN
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Screenwriter Vijay Krishna Acharya's directing debut is a delirious crime romp borrows pop-savvy attitude from Quentin Tarantino, stylized gun play from Sergio Leone and stylized hand-to-hand combat moves from Hong Kong action films. The result is a nutty, ridiculously entertaining neo-noir pastiche with lavish musical numbers.

Mumbai call-center drone "Jimmy Cliff" (Saif Ali Khan) teaches English on the side, the better to meet babes. Then, to his surprise, he finds himself falling for Pooja (Kareena Kapoor), an old-fashioned country girl. He abandons his player ways and agrees to tutor Pooja's boss, flamboyant businessman Bhaiyyaji (Anil Kapoor), in hopes of seeing more of her. He's so smitten that he ignores the warning signs -- an innocent request to pull a couple of phone numbers from the call center's confidential database, the gigantic bag of money Pooja accidentally drops -- and unquestioningly buys into her sob story about being indentured to Bhaiyyaji in payment of a debt incurred by her late father. Determined to help his true love escape, Jimmy helps her steal $250,000 from her employer, only to have Pooja vanish with the cash just as he learns that Bhaiyyaji is actually sociopathic Lakhan Singh, who murdered his way out of rural Uttar Pradesh to become a Mumbai crime lord, complete with his own fortified compound. Bhaiyyaji charges Bachchan Pande (Akshay Kumar), a none-too-bright thug from his hometown, with retrieving his property, and soon Bachchan, Jimmy and Pooja are at the center of a dizzying series of double-, triple- and quadruple-crosses.

"Tashan" means style, and Acharya's film has it to burn: Dumb, rudely flamboyant, high-energy pulp style. The action sequences are so cartoonish that it almost doesn't matter that the big car stunts are obviously computer generated: There's no pretense of realism to violate. The music and choreography are consistently strong, particularly Kareena Kapoor's bad-girl anthem "I Flirt, I Trick, I Cheat" and the "impromptu" number the fugitives impose on American art-house production "Holy Widows" after hijacking the director's trailer to get through a police roadblock. His meek protest that there are no songs in "Holy Widows" is met with the inevitable rejoinder: "Dude, this is India. There's a song for everything." There's no arguing with that. (in subtitled Hindi and English) leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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