Radhe Review: A Passionately Moronic Action Movie that Suffers From Too Much Salman Khan

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Radhe Review: A Passionately Moronic Action Movie that Suffers From Too Much Salman Khan

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

The curious case of 55-year-old Salman Khan’s arrested development bogs down Radhe. The Prabhudeva-directed film is the Hindi-language remake of the 2017 South Korean actioner The Outlaws. The original’s balance of grisly violence and dark humour is typical of the several international successes that have emerged from the region in the past 20 years.

Radhe, in contrast, is passionately moronic, as is expected of a Salman Khan-starrer that isn’t helmed by Ali Abbas Zafar or Kabir Khan. Those two somehow managed to get Khan committed to stories with a head and a heart, resulting in mixed but surely not unwatchable results: Ek Tha Tiger, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, and Tubelight, directed by Kabir Khan, and Sultan and Tiger Zinda Hai, directed by Ali Abbas Zafar.

The Outlaws had all the juice in producing a violent but wry action movie, much like Dabangg, the one film that convinced filmmakers and audiences that Khan’s beefy and block-headed personality could be utilised for cinema with genuine spunk and wit.

Radhe, in contrast, is passionately moronic, as is expected of a Salman Khan-starrer that isn’t helmed by Ali Abbas Zafar or Kabir Khan.

The Outlaws features a brash, brawny cop who runs over bad guys quite like a tank casually making comic observations on the way. (Think of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best non-Terminator roles). This cop locks horns with a ponytailed ganglord, severely brutal and ambitious. Caught in the mix are a bunch of delightfully weird riff-raffs engaged in a turf war involving Chinese, Korean, and Chinese-Korean gangs.

What persuaded the makers of Radhe to refashion The Outlaws as a Salman Khan vehicle is clear: a no-nonsense cop with an understated funny bone is reminiscent of several Khan characters, particularly the ones from Dabangg and Wanted. Radhe, the name itself, is a reference to Khan’s roles from Wanted, and the 2003 super hit Tere Naam, the Hindi remake of the Tamil film Sethu, featuring Vikram in his breakout role.

So what comes in the way of Radhe being both a competent action movie and a perfect Eidi for the ardent Bhai fan?

The project suffers from being subservient to Salman Khan’s persona, the extent of whose mouldy and moth-eaten condition in 2021 is palpable from the makers’ efforts to drive home his eternal virility and machismo in every awkward scene he appears in with his 28-year-old heroine Disha Patani. Then there are the action scenes where Khan, shaped like a Panzer tank, moves like a Porsche.

Then there are the action scenes where Khan, shaped like a Panzer tank, moves like a Porsche.

Because the entirety of Radhe has to acknowledge how awesome Khan is at every moment, none of the other characters get to shine, which is a shame, because The Outlaws offered so many colorful crazies to Indianise.

The only two actors who manage to have some share of the pie are Randeep Hooda and Jackie Shroff. Hooda plays the main villain and is thankfully allowed to retain the sinister edge of the original film. Hooda’s baddie, with a fondness for sharp weapons, is one of the most memorable foes Salman Khan has faced in a film in quite some time. It’s ludicrous how Hooda’s character, with visibly better physique and ferociousness, isn’t able to slice and dice Khan’s sluggish cop into minced meat.

Meanwhile, all the unheroic and foolish aspects of the lead character in The Outlaws, which made the hero so compelling, are dispatched to Radhe’s buffoonish superior, played by Jackie Shroff, who’s a total sport in the most bizarre scenes. One scene has Shroff dressed in the same skimpy dress as Disha Patani, as he brushes up to Khan. This is probably going to be the lasting legacy of Radhe.

One scene has Shroff dressed in the same skimpy dress as Disha Patani, as he brushes up to Khan. This is probably going to be the lasting legacy of Radhe.

Something has happened to both Khan’s body and face, and it’s not just age. He was quite nimble and animated in the nineties, for instance. No one ever called him a great actor, but at least, no one would call him wooden. But now Khan appears unable to move his facial muscles in a manner that is human-like. Even in his single bare-bodied scene, which is the money shot in all Bhai films, Khan looks ill at ease. It’s not just because his cop character is pretending to be a fashion model in that very scene. At an elemental level, Salman Khan has lost something crucial from his performances. Perhaps, it’s time for his characters to stop being superhuman and go back to being human.

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