Just when we were beginning to admire the progress in narratives, style and technique in recent Hindi cinema, there comes along a sucker punch like Bodyguard to push us backwards several steps. South Indian director Siddique holds the distinction of making the same film four times. When his original Malayali film of the same name became a massive hit, Siddique then decided to remake it in Tamil as Kaavalan, in Hindi as Bodyguard, and the upcoming Telugu version titled Ganga. While the Malayalam and Tamil versions garnered significant box office and critical success, the Hindi remake - starring Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor - is an exercise in redundancy. Bodyguard tries to build on the current resurgence of the full on masala film that has been doing surprisingly well lately. But it ends up simply as an exhausting experience, offering painfully little by way of entertainment, plot or performances. Or anything else you might expect from a film.
For a film that has the biggest of India's film factories clamoring for remake rights, you would naturally go in expecting some sort of novel experience and plot. But the story is predictable from the start and resorts to every possible stereotype and plot device that has been used umpteen times. There's a fearless (and feared) one-man juggernaut, Lovely Singh (Salman Khan), who beats up evil goons for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then there's an omnipotent wealthy man Sartaj Rana (Raj Babbar) whose daughter Divya (Kareena Kapoor) faces some sort of vague danger. We are never told why. But this seems enough for the scared father to call in the brawny nice guy to look after his little girl as she moves to college.
In a bid to loosen up the robotically loyal bodyguard, Divya begins prank-calling him pretending to be a long lost girlfriend. Surely enough, the prank backfires and Divya falls for her bodyguard, while he falls for the non-existent girlfriend he's been speaking to on the phone. And a gimmicky move to use Karisma Kapoor's voice for Divya's alter-ego on the phone oddly results in the older Kapoor sister having more interesting speaking parts than the actual female lead in the film, Kareena.
Such seemingly hasty moves define Bodyguard as it unravels, one dud slapstick joke after another. The film also checks off every cringeworthy stereotype in what becomes a desperate move to evoke laughter. At any cost. There's an obese sidekick named Tsunami Singh who grunts, makes weird noises and is a bumbling, overacting fool. A dwarf character is thrown in just so Lovely Singh can make some flat jokes about a "half human" who needs to drink Complan. And when a flamboyantly gay man (wearing all pink) flirts with the hero, he gets scared and avoids any sort of contact as if a mere touch would bring on the "gay disease."
To his credit, Siddique employs some of the requisite elements of a masala film. Khan's introduction - grand song sequence, silly-cool dance moves and an afterthought appearance by Katrina Kaif - is engineered for mass appeal. The fight sequences are creative, to say the least, and the anticipated climax scene where Khan must inevitably lose his shirt as he readies for one last smack down is actually funny in its outlandishness. However, the film suffers overall from bad dialogues, a sorely punctured script, and half-hearted performances.
Khan tries hard to revisit his Chulbul Pandey of Dabanng but fails to do much in Bodyguard. His expressions and dialogue delivery both remain monotone throughout. There are a few moments when he successfully moves beyond his usual range of histrionics; for example, the scene where he is nervous about meeting his telephonic girlfriend in person is suitably executed. But for the most part, Khan hardly moves his lips to mouth the dialogues and then resorts to overacting when a scene demands some level of intensity.
Kapoor, while she looks radiant, offers shockingly little in terms of substance. Perhaps more at fault is the writing, which makes her an incredibly mundane character that could have been played by absolutely anyone. Yes, a masala film heroine is usually a mere trophy, but even Sonakshi Sinha had depth in Dabanng. Here, the be all and end all of the Divya character is Lovely Singh. She is first angry with him, then she teases him, then plays a prank, then falls in love with him. She has no other purpose in her life besides doing something related to Lovely.
The villains - special appearances by Mahesh Manjrekar and Aditya Pancholi - seem unnecessary since we never know exactly what they want or what their motives are. The songs aren't exciting enough and are forcefully inserted without much regard to the plot or visual themes.
With Bodyguard, Khan hopes to continue his winning streak at delivering successful masala films after Wanted, Dabanng and Ready. However, this film by Siddique goes wrong in numerous places, most of all in the script. The best dramatic point in the film only comes at the end, which is when the film finally begins to get interesting. If only the same innovative dramatic streaks ran throughout the film, Bodyguard would have veered away from becoming the bumbling, unfunny and bland film that it is. This bodyguard won't save anyone!