I haven’t yawned this much while watching a film in a long long time. Yes, Brothers is a rare gem of a film in that sense. But, I have had this feeling of ‘when will this film end’ for so many other Hindi films that have released this year. Brothers is truly run-of-mill in that sense.
Karan Malhotra, the director who gave us the commercially successful but perennially boring remake of the 90s cult classic Agneepath, comes back with another remake in form of Brothers (official remake of 2011 Hollywood film Warrior) and does exactly what he has done before – he bores us to death. Okay, near death (conceding the fact that I am still alive to write this review). At times, I struggle to respond to those ever-inquisitive souls who come up to you after you have watched a film and ask you – how was it? A film like Brothers makes your job easier – you can simply say ‘boring’ and the answer shall perfectly suffice.
Brothers is the story of two brothers (yes, you are a genius because you guessed it right), David Fernandes (Akshay Kumar) and Monty Fernandes (Sidharth Malhotra), who are victims of familial conflict courtesy their drunkard father Gary Fernandes (Jackie Shroff), who we are told is an ex-street fighter. Separated by cruel fate of destiny, the two brothers come face to face in a mixed martial arts competition called Right to Fight (R2F). Punches and kicks fly thick and fast as the two face off in a dramatic final leaving behind a trail of broken bones and smoothened emotions.
To be honest, Brothers has a riveting premise and it clearly reflects in the short description of the film that is given above. A drunkard father, a doting mother, two brothers who love each other but eventually fall apart, a tragic accident, street fighting, anger, repentance, forgiveness, redemption, underdog story, family melodrama – Brothers has all the ingredients of a typical Bollywood potboiler. But, sadly all these ingredients boil well over the brim and leave you with a bad taste in the mouth.
So what goes wrong with Brothers?
An unpardonable penchant for theatrics and melodrama: The background score in the film is so loud and boisterous that it almost becomes an overarching character. The director tries to force feed emotions to the audiences and it clearly does not work. There are times when the background score becomes so buoyant that you start searching for validation through visuals on the screen. But sadly, the proceedings on the screen remain dull and never really evoke strong emotions.
Lack of real emotions: Your eyes are never wet either when the brothers separate or predictably reunite towards the end. Much of the film’s first half is dedicated to pump up our emotions around the Fernandes family but you never really root for or hate any of the principal characters. Emotions fall flat on face perhaps because there is no room of subtlety in Brothers. Crucifixes, tattoos, cut marks on the same spot for every fighter, slow motion flashbacks, church shots – all of these stereotypical elements are thrown on your face and you are supposed to sob. Sorry, it does not work.
Marathon Runtime: With a runtime of nearly 2 hours and 40 minutes, Brothers is a remarkable snooze fest. The first half goes on and on to establish the characters and plot, while the second half just never stops with its montages of fight sequences and tacky commentary scenes. There are simply too many loo breaks and yawn distractions – a tighter editing would have helped Brothers salvage some of its pride.
An obnoxious ‘item song’: I have never come across a more pointless and lecherous ‘item song’ than ‘Mera Naam Mary Hai’. Principally, I am not opposed to the idea of an item song in a Bollywood potboiler as long as it serves some purpose in the narrative. Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath had an enjoyable item song in Chikni Chameli, but Mary arrives on the scene with no prior warnings and goes out without doing much. An item songs leading up to a film’s intermission? Really? Also, I wonder what made Kareena Kapoor Khan say yes to such a poorly written song with distasteful dance moves.
Uninspiring Support Cast: You have Ashutosh Rana in your support cast and you make him carry bottles in and out of the fighting ring. This is just one of the instances of talented actors being cast in rather insignificant roles in Brothers. Jackie Shroff is impressive in some scenes but accepting him as Akshay Kumar’s father seems a little difficult. True to his age, Shroff looks like Akshay’s elder brother and especially because the director decides not to shave off Akshay’s white beard and chest hair! Shefali Shah makes an impact in some of the emotional scenes and reminds us about her immense acting potential. Sidharth Malhotra looks a complete misfit and does little except for glaring and growling. It’s sad to see him struggle to get his emotions and body language right in a role that required immense intensity and dedication.
Lukewarm Fight Sequences: Let’s not forget that despite its brutal display of contrived emotions and melodrama, Brothers is essentially a sports film. It is perhaps the first time that a film on mixed martial arts (MMA) and street fighting has been attempted in Bollywood. But sadly, despite all the build-up and staged pre-launch media madness, the fight sequences fail to make an impact. The fighters look more comical than menacing, our two heroes look more tired and aggrieved than motivated and driven. Both the opening and final fight scenes are big letdowns with the audience (in the theater) wondering what to do and whom to cheer for!
There are a very few likeable aspects of Brothers. And Akshay Kumar is one of them. The actor comes up with a nuanced and restrained performance that is very different from the mostly comical or out-and-out action-oriented roles that he has been doing off late. Jacqueline Fernandez (the only real Fernandez in a film of Fernandes’) looks believable in a brief role. The film’s cinematography is above average but other technical departments leave you asking for more – especially the editing department, which seems to have gone on a vacation. The film’s music (Ajay Atul) is a letdown with none of the songs registering in your memory.
Overall, Brothers buys an age-old Bollywood formula from a Hollywood film and makes a mega mess of it. The film is a sleep-inducing cocktail of sibling rivalry, familial discord and sports extravaganza that tries to be too many things at the same time. And most worryingly, it tries to pass off exaggerated melodrama via some in-your-face theatrics but ends up with mud on its own face.
This Independence Day, you deserve freedom for this Karan Malhotra sham of a film.