Who’s tired of all that machismo on the silver screen? Certainly not Indian filmmakers, and definitely not Bollywood. A remake of the 2003 Telugu film, Okkadu, the newly released Tevar is about a macho young man with a heart of gold, who rubs the Home Minister’s brother the wrong way. Since that story of good vs. evil lacks depth and logic, let us see if it makes better sense from a different perspective.
The perspective of the antagonist, to be more precise. In Mathura lives Gajinder Singh (Manoj Bajpayee), who loves to use his clout to spread terror. His brother (Rajesh Sharma) is the Home Minister of the region, and Gajinder uses this to his advantage. There is a certain journalist, who is hell-bent on exposing the hooliganism of the two brothers, and Gajinder decides to get rid of him. However, he falls in love with a college lecturer named Radhika (Sonakshi Sinha), who turns out to be the journalist’s sister. Gajinder lays his heart first at Radhika’s feet, then at her brother’s (for her hand). Rejected by both, he does what comes to him naturally – kidnapping the object of his affection. When his plans are thwarted again, this time by a young kabaddi champion from Agra, Pintu (Arjun Kapoor), Gajinder loses all sense of propriety – he decides to not only teach Pintu a lesson, but also to possess Radhika by any means, fair or foul. What follows is a story of chases and violence, through the streets of Mathura and Agra, some romance, some father-son relationship, and one man’s stubborn obsession.
If you reverse the story above, you will realise that in conventional filmmaking language, Pintu is the hero who saves the damsel in distress, Radhika (and that is what this screenplay intends to portray, of course). This angle, however, is dull and predictable, and the entire script is peppered with stereotypical caricatures – indulgent mother, strict father, bubbly sister, stupid but dangerous local goon, corrupt politician, honest journalist, sycophant lackeys, helpless parents, and so on – and pretty meaningless dialogues. The hero is introduced as a sportsperson, but this aspect is never touched upon ever again. He mouths inanely macho lines, and his sudden conversion to lover boy is abrupt and convenient. The heroine begins by being a feisty young thing, but turns into coy woman in love, for the sake of the story. The villain is the only consistent and believable character in the movie. His story graph is plotted well, and although he may evoke some hatred, you find yourself rooting for a little peace of mind for him as well. The first half of the movie meanders through some irrelevant scenes and the second half takes too long to get to the climax. When it does, the climax goes on for a while. The resolution of the story is pretty tepid and somewhat disappointing, given that the love story between the hero and the heroine is not explored at all.
Which explains why Manoj Bajpayee steals the show in Tevar. Besides his superior acting skills, he is the only fortunate one in the movie who lands a well written role. And he kills it with his expressions and his dialogues. Arjun Kapoor is best suited for the action sequences, and falters when he has to play anything other than the angry young man. Sonakshi Sinha, like most of her previous movies, does not have much to do, but she does dance well. Raj Babbar is a thrill to watch, with his underplayed emotions as a long suffering father. Deepti Naval and Rajesh Sharma are sadly wasted.
The story is set in the cities of Agra and Mathura, mostly, and the production design brings alive the grittiness and the squalor of the streets and alleys. There is no beauty here, except for the Taj Mahal in the backdrop every now and then. The costumes are colourful and loud at times, especially for the character that Manoj Bajpayee plays. The songs are not too memorable, except maybe for ‘Superman’ and ‘Jogiyan’. In fact, there are just too many songs in the first half. The cinematography shines during the action sequences, and is decent otherwise. The editing department could and should have cut off a few dead scenes to make the movie shorter and crisper.
Tevar is yet another movie in a list of action romances that have flooded Bollywood in the recent past. It may seem pretty outdated to most people, and it probably is, but Manoj Bajpayee’s performance alone is worth a ticket, and you should check it out for him, and him alone. Unless, of course, you are an Arjun Kapoor fan – the good news is that he is present in almost every frame, and the bad news is that he has a long way to go before he can outshine somebody like Manoj Bajpayee, even when his character is beating the living daylights out of the character played by the latter.