I really believe Prabhu Deva brings a very unique sense of humor into Bollywood, which is very refreshing. It is bizarre, outlandish and many times loaded with double innuendo but mostly much less crude and perverse than Milap Zaveri. He started his Bollywood innings with remakes (Wanted and Rowdy Rathore) and now he is into originals (R..Rajkumar and Action Jackson). It becomes very evident now, that beyond couple of comic situations he is plain mediocre, who is just churning movies on auto-pilot mode. He kind of goes all out in Action Jackson going beyond double innuendos and hitting right below the belt. The movie is surely outlandish and might serve as amusement, but it is lazy, sloppy and grating, which makes a mess of even something as basic as a double role.
There is nothing in the plot worth getting into, but I would like to get into a scene, which I believe is a very unique scene in terms gender role-reversals. It starts of as a regular misogynist scene from those countless 90s B-movies. A girl is kidnapped, tied to a chair, and soon drenched in water to exploit the see-through property of white shirts when wet. The villain soon starts feeling the girl up, unbuttons her revealing a well shaped cleavage throwing the mass centers in raptures (and the multiplex audience into a uncomfortable territory). We thought we were over all this exploitation in the 90s , but here is Prabhu Deva bringing all those memories back. And this is the point in such a scene, where to balance the perverseness, a hero needs to be ushered in to save the day and rest of the already exploited girl’s ‘izzat’.
Till now it is like any other of those scenes, but at this point Mr. Prabhu Deva turns the scene around its head, and the attention shifts from the girl’s cleavage to Ajay Devgan’s ripped abs and from the villain’s Ranjeetesque looks to the girl biting lips and going all ooh-aah about AJ’s well-sculpted body. The victim of male desire suddenly becomes the one desiring a male (which later in the movie turns into a predator like instinct). Sure, the girl is later conveniently put into the Vamp’s role like all other movies, but in that 3-4 minutes sequence, the way a victim is empowered and set free from the hindi movie shackles of female sexuality repression is absolutely refreshing. And in this moment, as Raja Sen notes in his review, AJ is just a prop and Manasvi Mamgai is the one with the reins in her hands. This feminist turn is strictly limited to this moment and it soon defuses and settles down in familiar territory. Manasvi Mamgai the predator soon turns into the ‘psycho bitch’.
The role of the 3 females in the movie is as follows
Female 1 – A harebrained girl who believes her luck changes for the good whenever she sees Ajay Devgan’s private parts.
Female 2 – A mute spectator of a wife who gets thrashed twice in the movie. A placeholder of a character to get AJ angry with revenge.
Female 3 – Constantly on a hormonal rush. She fantasizes AJ more than we did Alicia Silverstone in the 90’s. Her primary reason of existence is to provide fantastic visuals of cleavage and a bare back.
Despite of this, our esteemed critic Raja Sen considers this movie a ‘benchmark in feminist cinema’. I agree with Shubhra Gupta when she says, “Action Jackson treats its women as dumb dodos or doped-out vixens…” Her review spells the awfulness of the film very bluntly.
If filmmakers argue that they make mainstream movies with stars to give people a personality they love to watch without any trappings of serious story or drama, then at least give us something junta loves. I don’t think anyone wants to watch Ajay kick ass like this with awkward swordplay, superhuman punches and kicks. We don’t want him doing tomfoolery like Akshay Kumar or Salman Khan. If I may speak on behalf of the moviegoers, I would say we all want to see Ajay Devgan as a cool, calm, calculated and a laidback fellow who could just kill someone with a stare. We want to see more Malik and more Sultan Mirza. Rohit Shetty claims he knows how to get the best of Ajay on screen. I think he absolutely doesn’t and nor does anyone else currently working in the mainstream space. It is rare we get a Sultan Mirza, which made me go ecstatic.
As we herald all the wonderful small budget films that we’ve started getting post 2000, my heart also bleeds for the absolute degrading of the hindi mainstream film. I still believe 90s and the early 2000’s was the best time for the quintessential ‘hindi-pickchur’. If we are reaIly done with it, so be it, but at least this generation deserves their own Ram Gopal Verma, to challenge norms and churn out an alternative to this maar-dhaad-kapda-faad variety of cinema.