If ever there were such a prize, Milan Luthria's "Baadshaho" (Emperors) would win "most banal heist film". This long, meandering tale set during the 1975 Emergency about a princess and her treasure, is a dud. Moreover, Luthria and co-collaborator Rajat Arora (screenplay and dialogue) give us two hours and forty-odd minutes of this exercise.
This seems to be the year when Bollywood's passing interest in history has been piqued, which is why we are getting half-baked stories about the Emergency. "Baadshaho" begins with a Sanjay Gandhi-lookalike making advances on Gitanjali (Ileana D'Cruz), the sole heir to a princely estate. She rejects him, and he vows revenge. Two years later, Emergency is declared, and Gitanjali's fortune - tons of gold and diamonds just lying about in a basement - is confiscated by the government. Desperate to save her riches, she turns to Bhavani (Ajay Devgn), her trusted bodyguard, who is also in love with her.
Bhavani gathers a crew - Dalia (Emraan Hashmi), a small-time criminal; Sanjana (Esha Gupta), an associate of Gitanjali; and Tikla (Sanjay Mishra), an expert lock-picker. Together, they go up against Seher (Vidyut Jammwal), an army officer in charge of transporting the treasure back to Delhi.
All this is supposed to be high-voltage action and drama, and there are supposed to be twists and turns, but we’ve seen these tropes so many times that nothing surprises us. Devgn and gang certainly give the “been there, done that” impression, and are so jaded and dull in the film, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d been held at gunpoint to get them to appear in it.
The only person who seems to have any enthusiasm about this story is Arora, who writes dialogue such as “all your carats cannot shake my character” and “agar wo army hai toh hum harami hai” (They might be the army, but we are scoundrels). If only he’d put in the work where it was most needed, we wouldn’t have been subjected to the yawn-fest that “Baadshaho” is.