The film’s title recalls the Amitabh Bachchan starrer Mr. Natwarlal but what it tries to do is more in the line of the younger Bachchan’s trippy inspired-but-authentic Bluffmaster. It tries but fails. While Rohan Sippy’s fine film created the right mood for the perfect master and apprentice con job, Raja Natwarlal shoots it straight and misses by a whole lot.
Raja is a small time conman flipping cards of Deepika Padukone and Nirupa Roy and luring customers into gambling. He assists his idol Raghav (Deepak Tijori) and nothing they do is original or unique in the way Roy managed in Bluffmaster. That sets the tone for this film that this one is going to be predictable with only flashes of sincerity. When a job goes bad – like they usually do – the apprentice loses his jedi – like it usually happens – and goes in search of the long retired master resting in the mountains – like they should. The master once had a genuine name befitting of a famed conman – Victor Singh Khan – but goes by the shorter version Yogi (did I mention he lodges in Dharamshala?).
What follows was likely put together on the sets. The team of men led by Yogi themselves make up things as they go along. It builds on the notorious original Natwarlal (there is a hat tip to the nonexistent Mithilesh Kumar Srivastava) job of selling Taj Mahal and Rashtrapati Bhavan. Here the gang tries to sell a T20 team that does not exist to cricket crazy Vardha Yadav (Kay Kay Menon). A bit of reverse Allen Stanford anyone? The whole process is dignified by the casting of Paresh Rawal and Kay Kay Menon. The machinations are too simple and too in your face. A pest control and courier boy distraction, a google search optimization. The jobs lack finesse and imagination to keep them interesting. Almost every song moment is ill-advised. Actually the songs themselves are ill-advised, generic, dated. What’s wrong with Yuvan Shankar Raja?
Kunal Deshmukh possibly has a difficult relationship with cricket that he keeps making these fraudster films related to the sport. He also seems to have a difficult relationship with direction. He’s gone for the pull but hasn’t got the distance as deep midwicket latches on to it quite comfortably.
(An edited version of this was first published in The New Indian Express)