Khakee


Director: Raj Kumar Santoshi
Music: Ram Sampat; Lyrics: Sameer
Year: 2003
Running Time: 2 hours 42 minutes

Amitabh Bachchan has been cracking heads in movies since the early 1970's when he was as big a superstar as there ever was. He became famous as the "angry young man" as he denounced corruption, politicians and the evils of society and usually left a trail of littered bodies in his path. Thirty years later Amitabh has settled comfortably into playing older roles - often a father now or a senior official and rarely is romance thrown his way - but he is still cracking heads and fighting injustice and gets to do plenty of both in this film.

Khakee isn't a particularly smart film and it is as subtle as Al Capone bringing a baseball bat to a black tie dinner party, but it is quite entertaining, is fairly tense and has a few twists that trip you up. Though Amitabh is surrounded by stars such as Aishwarya Rai, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgan, he still completely dominates the film with his incorruptible but weary presence and he often looks like a sagging tent that is ready to collapse but never quite does. The movie stops a few times to allow him to give one of his patented outraged speeches and though these may seem a bit unrealistic in the circumstances, it is always great letting Amitabh get worked up and using his famous baritone like a battering ram.
A suspected Muslim terrorist (Atul Kulkarni) of Indian nationality is in police custody, but they have to transport him from Chandangarh to Mumbai for trial. The first convoy is ambushed and cut to ribbons by withering gunfire as a group of terrorists attempt to free Atul, but the police manage to keep hold of him. In the second attempt to escort the prisoner, they turn to an old hand - Amitabh - now an instructor at the police academy. It is soon made clear that his integrity and high principles have kept him from reaching the higher ranks in the force - but he is promised that if he succeeds in this mission he will finally be promoted. Assigned also to the convoy are Akshay Kumar, a cock sure but not too honest cop who does everything he can to get out of this mission, Tusshar Kapoor, a young inexperienced but idealistic cop and two other constables. Not exactly an elite squad by all appearances.
Before they even begin their journey they are saddled with a civilian - but a civilian that comes in the form of Aishwarya Rai is certainly no hardship on the eyes. She saw the head terrorist (Ajay Devgan) and so they bring her along to ensure her safety. Huh? She would be safer in Iraq walking alone on the street in a bathing suit and waving an American flag. Maybe not the smartest move, but if she hadn't tagged along we would have had a bunch of men dancing with themselves - so this is a good thing.
It is a long arduous trip to Mumbai and in their two vehicles they seem like easy prey to the terrorists who seem to know their every move. Fortunately for them Ajay has a long smoldering grudge against Amitabh and rather than simply killing him prefers to toy with him in the way that bad guys do only in the movies. It slowly turns into a grueling deadly forced march as the small group bonds together against their many enemies - some obvious and some not so obvious. Of course if this had been in America we could have watched every step of this journey on CNN.
There is a lot of solid action and some excellent scenes in the film that definitely grab you - but at the same time there were a number of things that just struck me as silly. The major one of course being why do they transport the prisoner by land since it becomes very clear that they are sitting ducks with zero protection or support - this felt more like a Western with the stagecoach making it through hostile territory. Since then though, they have invented this thing called air transport - a whole lot quicker - of course that would have made for a very short film! Another weak point of the narrative is that Amitabh just doesn't seem very on top of things. Though he knows the terrorists are watching his every step even before he departs, he makes as much attempt to obscure his tracks as I do when I leave for work bleary-eyed in the morning. And he takes forever to connect some basic dots - it leaves you wondering if his lack of advancement was for reasons other than his principles.
Other than Amitabh the acting here doesn't set off many sparks. Ajay simply wears a smirk and sunglasses the entire time, Aish looks beautiful but bewildered as to why she is in this male driven action vehicle (though she does have some fun with a gun near the end) and though I have seen a few raves for Akshay's performance I found his attempts at charm rather out of place. Oddly though, none of this really hurts the film because its strength is in the fast moving narrative, the action, a few dramatic moments, the twists and of course the Big B. There is also an unexpected musical appearance from Lara Dutta that had some flash to it.

My rating for this film: 7.0

Song 1

Song 2

Song 3