Sadak 2 (film streaming on Disney+ Hotstar); Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Pooja Bhatt, Alia Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapur, Jisshu Sengupta, Gulshan Grover, Makarand Deshpande, Priyanka Bose, Mohan Kapoor, Akshay Anand; Direction: Mahesh Bhatt; Rating: * and 1/2 (one and a half stars)
By Vinayak Chakravorty
Sadak 2 comes with a throwback whiff, though not a happy one. It reminds you of a lot of the kitsch that summed up Hindi commercial cinema once upon a time, which you thought had left the Bollywood screen for good.
Mahesh Bhatt returns to direction after over two decades with this film and we’re not sure if that accounts for its dated, faded vibes. What one can be sure of is the fact that netizens who have been aggressively trolling the film and calling for its boycott, needn’t have bothered. Bhatt’s new film is so weak that chances are you will doze off long before the halfway mark.
The Film is billed as an action drama that unfolds as a road trip, so you have three people in an SUV driving up mountain terrain. Any resemblance to very basic SUV advertising on TV might not be coincidental. Those bits were necessary to set up a plastic feel-good mood. After all, an Alia Bhatt film — no matter who the hero opposite her is – needs the odd Sufi-pop love song, with the actress and her hero popping out of the sunroof to steal a kiss or two as the vehicle glides through scenic locales.
There are many more such cliches, as Alia’s character Aarya sets out for a Kailash Mansarovar trip ahead of her 21st birthday. That’s where we have the return of Sanjay Dutt as Ravi the cabbie from the original Sadak. He is a gruff old loner now, prone to suicidal swings but maintaining the machismo nonetheless with a heavy-set beard, a tough-guy drawl and an anguished gaze. That’s trademark Sanjay Dutt for you actually, and it still looks good on him.
But Dutt’s screen presence isn’t enough to save the film, you figure as Aarya gets him to drive her up to Ranikhet, from where she plans a chopper ride to Mansarovar. On way, she picks up her boyfriend Vishal (Aditya Roy Kapur) from, uhh, Central Jail. Vishal walks out of jail as if he’s just stepping out of gym and a shower.
For the sake of contrived plot progression, Aarya has a very filmi motive for the trip. What unfolds as the minutes roll is a weird mix of stale storytelling about jaidaad, unimaginative drama and standard violence, thrown into the narrative with an evil Guruji (Makarand Deshpande, in an inexplicable mood to ham). The bad godman wants Aarya out, it seems, because her rich mom has left lots of wealth for the girl.
What ultimately unfolds is a banal nineties potboiler parceled as a film of 2020. Too many people at home and outside want Aarya’s moolah, which will naturally become hers when she turns 21. Bhatt along with co-writer Suhrita Sengupta pushes the limits in a bid to make that story idea seem exciting with twists you would see coming if you grew up on a Bollywood diet from two to three decades back. It doesn’t help that the dialogues are cheesy. “Bhagwan apne saath hain, is sadak par,” declares Alia as Aarya, in case the utter pile of cliches made you forget the name of the film.
While on Alia, one can almost empathise with her as she valiantly tries to salvage Aarya — a poorly crafted prototype from ‘heroine-oriented’ films of yore that were accorded extended footage but barely given scope for good acting.
Sanjay Dutt as Ravi is supposed to be the connecting link between the first Sadak of 1991 and this film. He is a tormented man, blaming himself for the death of Pooja (Pooja Bhatt), the sex worker he loved in the first film. Dutt exudes a mix of angst, vulnerability and recklessness while bringing alive Ravi. It is an image he has portrayed with aplomb too many times in the eighties and the nineties — Sadak, Naam, Kabzaa, Imaandaar or Vaastav would just be a few names to recall at random. In Sadak 2, although he looks dashing as ever, he was merely rehashing the prototype.
For the sake of justifying his presence in the film (apart from the fact that Alia Bhatt needs a love interest), Aditya Roy Kapoor’s Vishal gets a sub plot unto himself. It is as unconvincing as the actor’s efforts to emote.
In fact, most of the characters drawn out in the film lack conviction — especially the villains. Makarand Deshpande as the vile godman was probably overwhelmed with the idea that he had to match the late Sadashiv Amrapurkar’s unforgettable act as the transgender pimp Maharani in the first film. Makarand takes the loud route to create an impact as the malevolent Guruji, and falls short.
Then there is Gulshan Grover as a hitman with a chopped hand. He is called (very imaginatively) Dilip Haathkata. Grover strikes vintage snarling form while enacting the role.
“Sadak 2” plods ahead on the path to nowhere with these weird characters and many more like them, meandering aimlessly towards a climax that hardly surprises or thrills. The film is best avoided.
You don’t need a Nepometer to know it’s a bad film.
(Vinayak Chakravorty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)