Movies You Might Have Missed: Rowdy Rathore

Title: Rowdy Rathore
Release Date: 2012
Rating: N/A
Length: 140 minutes
Director: Prabhu Deva
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha, Nassar
Language: Hindi
Country: India

I found this movie via a trailer on YouTube. I was hooked from the moment I saw the trailer. I wasn’t disappointed either. The movie is fantastic, in all the senses of the word. The action is over-the-top in the best action movie manner. There are several absolutely out of place song and dance numbers, in the best Bollywood tradition. The comedy is really broad and completely comprehensible to a Western audience. The biggest “flaw” is that the emotional beats are so exaggerated as to be almost laughable.

Look, it’s not a good movie. But even at 2 ½ hours (with intermission!) it is a surprisingly enjoyable one. You don’t need any experience with Indian cinema (I had none when I saw this the first time), you just need a willingness to be pleased and an open mind about how silly everything is. As I said above, the trailer sells it really well, and it does so without spoiling the plot at all, really.

I would hate to spoil it for you myself in this post, so let me just say it’s one part Nora Ephron rom-com, one part Busby Berkeley musical, one part Die Hard police action, and one part Mel Brooks comedy, all filtered through Indian culture. Watch the trailer; you’ll know if this is for you after that.

Just know that the trailer shows you basically nothing of the villains, who are so villainous as to be almost comical. Almost. It’s not explicitly portrayed, but we’re shown how black-hearted they are through an introductory scene involving them flaunting to a police officer how they run the small town to such a degree that they kidnap his wife openly for their…enjoyment. Yeah. It feels out of place to me. They are, like everything else, dialed up to 11.

The violence is pretty intense without being horror-film gory and it’s superhero-esque in many cases. There’s enough that it would still earn an R in the U.S. It has a few four-letter words, but the subtitles (at least on the DVD) are rough enough that most of the bad language gets lost in translation. Speaking of which, the subs are comical while still being comprehensible. The sexuality in the film is largely by suggestion; many of the dancers wear traditional costumes that are still more modest than you’d find on the beach. The only nudity is a very brief, non-salacious instance where a group is naked to illustrate (comically) how thoroughly they’ve been robbed.

The best way I can sum up this movie is to emphasize how much fun it is. I don’t think they’re doing things that are far outside the mainstream within their own cinematic world, but they are so very, very different from Western movies. And that constant stream of unexpectedness contributes a great deal to the joy I feel watching this movie. It might not work as well for anyone well-acquainted with Bollywood, but otherwise I think you’ll find it amusing and refreshing.

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