Reviewed by Sarhan Rashid
Director: Raj Kumar Santoshi
Writing Credits: Ranjit Kapoor, Shridhar Raghavan, Raj Kumar Santoshi
Cast: Amitabh Bachan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan, Tusshar, Aiswarya Rai
Country: India, Pakistan
Language: Hindi, Urdu
Year Released: 2004
Runtime: 174 min
Indian movies have been very slow in accepting change. Last year we saw more filmmakers venture into unchartered territory and attempt "hatke" (different) types of movies. The results mostly yielded unprofitable returns at the box-office for the filmmakers and were only marginal critical successes.
The poor response can be attributed partly due to the fact that either the movies just did not connect with the Indian audiences or the dramatic changes came far too soon.
That however has not deterred filmmakers like Raj Kumar Santoshi from keeping the momentum alive. Khakee signals a move in the right direction for Indian cinema. It possesses all the gloss-factor associated with their far advanced Western counterparts while the director tells the story in a way that does not neglect the average Indian cinemagoer.
Khakee, the term used to refer to an Indian policeman's uniform, tells the story of a routine mission gone horribly wrong. DCP Anant Siva (played by the always dependable Amitabh Bachan) is an honest cop who regrets his past sacrifices in the name of duty. It is only when an opportunity to transport suspected terrorist Dr. Iqbal Ansari (Atul Kulkarni) comes about that he realizes this may be the one opportunity for him to do some good and earn the respect of his peers. With his team of four other police officers he sets about to escort the prisoner from Chandangadh to Mumbai. It is during this journey that they not only confront enemy forces trying to free their captive prisoner but also their inner demons.
The plot may not be groundbreaking but the execution sure is. Raj Kumar Santoshi finds the right balance between telling the story in a manner that will keep viewers interested while at the same time avoiding the pitfalls of Indian cinema - the comedy track, giant loopholes in the plot and even the song & dance sequences are kept to a minimum and even the three songs that are there are extremely short compared to normal Hindi songs.
With a filmmaker renowned for his action movies at its helm one would expect the fight sequences to be the high point of the enterprise but it's really the characters and clever storyline which make this 3 hour 15 minute movie a breeze to sit through. In fact if anything the poorly filmed fight sequences are the weakest part of this enterprise. The jarring editing coupled with poor lighting makes it extremely difficult to follow the action at times and the hand-held camera movement is a departure from the rest of the movies standard point and shoot style.
Amitabh Bachan finally essays a role where he doesn't play the "cool old man" but instead plays a very regular policeman trying to earn some respect. The characters preaching could've been a bore if delivered by any other artist but Amitabh proves why he is a much-respected figure in Bollywood. The rest of the cast does a noteworthy job as well most notably Akshay Kumar as Inspector Shekhar. He has to be commended for his work as he has improved so much over the years and here he proves he has so much range going from comedy to drama to action to just about anything. Ajay Devgan as Angre is also effective but had the filmmakers avoided all the typical characterization of such as character his role would have been far more effective.
And if the likeable characters such as Inspector don't keep your interest from waning than the constant twist and turns in the plot will definitely keep your eyes glued to the screen.
The movie may not be realistic cinema what with the "filmi" (typical) ending and shadowy villain who comes accompanied with his own theme music to boot but this is cinema after all, Indian cinema to be precise.
Sarhan Rashid is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org