Akshay Kumar loves physics. Going by his roles just this year we can see that he not only loves physics but also likes to give awkward – in presentation and articulation – lectures on fundamental concepts of physics. It happened in Gabbar is Back where he played a college professor and it happens in Karan Malhotra’s Brothers in which he is a school teacher. Brothers is based on Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior with Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerten. Two brothers locked in emotional and physical battle. One estranged alcoholic trainer father. A high stakes fighting championship. What could go wrong?
Many things if you are Karan Malhotra. Brothers may be the official remake of Warrior but the premise is very much borrowed from Indian myth. Something Malhotra doesn’t forget to bring up during the third act when proceedings are dominated by all the fighting and the lackluster commentary to go with it. To Malhotra’s credit he realized the Karna-Arjuna angle in Warrior and rightly jumped at the opportunity to make the Indian version. The “indianization” here is not of the patronizing form that’s most often used when a foreign material is being worked on by our filmmakers. The potential for melodrama here is huge. It’s a genre by itself and this story lends to it admirably well. And Karan Malhotra at the helm is not accidental. He seems to thrive on these subjects for his first film, the remake of Agneepath, is another film that dials up the intensity to its highest. But Malhotra wants to focus on the fighting much like his character Braganza, the one who brings mixed martial arts to India and wants to make it bigger than even cricket (chuckle). Events are repeated. Mr. Braganza cannot stop saying how tactical and brilliant mixed martial arts is. It’s legality is questioned and shown to be controversial but it boggles the mind why so much screen time is spent on this when the film is not about that at all. Malhotra does bring in good ideas from the myth he’s chosen as the construct here. David (Akshay Kumar), at least by present circumstances is shown to be the more privileged brother compared to Monty (Sidharth Malhotra). Malhotra shows how David trains with better equipment and in better surroundings while Monty uses scraps and rusty makeshift props like cranes and tires. But in the larger scheme of the film these things don’t seem to matter. The kid David has a sudden change in his feelings towards his brother that brings about the animosity between the two but his past actions leave no precedence to such a shift. There are basic consistency problems in characterization here. And the fights. After a point the fights become more of the same. If the fights don’t make you want to strangle yourself the commentary surely will. Malhotra doesn’t bring in any form of tension to the fights. He also films them in their most basic with no thrilling moves and too many flashlights. The camera doesn’t do anything different here.
Akshay Kumar looks the part. Beyond him there is only Shefali Shah who can extract from you some amount of feeling. Jackie Shroff overacts. Sidharth Malhotra cannot act. Do not page him if you want the angry young man. The actor I felt most sorry for is Kulbhushan Kharbanda. What did he do in all these years of stately eminence to deserve this unfunny role of a jester?
(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)