Sure, you are elated to know that the successful and lovable MUNNABHAI M.B.B.S. combo, Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi, have been teamed again. After all, the duo strolled into the hearts of millions of moviegoers with a winning movie. Naturally then, you await their new outing, ANTHONY KAUN HAI?, with equal enthusiasm.
But let's clear a few myths pertaining to ANTHONY KAUN HAI?...
Myth 1: If you expect to watch Munna and Circuit or an extension of those roles in ANTHONY KAUN HAI?, you're in for disillusionment. In this film, the two actors are on the opposite sides of the fulcrum. They are not buddies, they aren't working together either.
Myth 2: Expecting ANTHONY KAUN HAI? to be a hilarious entertainer, like some of the recent comic capers, would also be wrong. This is no laughathon. It's a thriller laced with a love story and light moments in minimal doses. In fact, the film is modeled on the lines of the Dev Anand-Ashok Kumar hit JEWEL THIEF, directed by Vijay Anand.
Now let's get to the realities.
On the plus side, ANTHONY KAUN HAI? is a stylishly shot film with several interesting twists and turns. In fact, the film is a complete departure from what director Raj Kaushal has attempted in the past [PYAAR MEIN KABHI KABHI, SHAADI KA LADDOO]. You could say that ANTHONY KAUN HAI? is Raj's finest effort so far, but it's not without its share of deficiencies.
The hiccups come in the form of the script [writer: Soumik Sen]. Inspired by the Hollywood film WHO IS CLETIS TOUT? [2002; Christian Slater, Tim Allen], the film also brings back memories of BLUE STREAK [1999; Martin Lawrence, Luke Wilson]. In fact, if you recall vividly, David Dhawan too had attempted BLUE STREAK in the past, when he made CHOR MACHAAYE SHOR [2002; Bobby, Shilpa, Bipasha].
Soumik's script is absorbing in parts and keeps the viewer on toes, but there's a major flaw. When you have a title like ANTHONY KAUN HAI?, the viewer wants to know ki bhaiya, Anthony aakhir hai kaun? There has to be a face to the character, but no one knows who Anthony is or what he looks like even after the film has ended. Yes, there are some body shots of Anthony Gonsalves [his face is hidden], but there has to be a face to every character -- at least in Hindi movies. From the writing point of view, this a glaring flaw!
Another defect -- and this has nothing to do with the script -- is that you expect Sanjay Dutt in the main lead [going by the promotions], but Sanju's presence is akin to a special appearance. Yes, Sanju's there at the start, in between and also in the end, but it's Arshad's story that he's listening to. Sanju comes in after every 20 minutes and his screen appearance lasts for not more than 3-4 minutes [at times, even less than that!] every time he appears. Obviously, the die-hard Sanju fans are bound to feel disappointed!
In a nutshell, ANTHONY KAUN HAI? is a mixed bag. It works intermittently, not in entirety!
Master Madan [Sanjay Dutt] is a hitman, a complete filmi, a die-hard Bollywood fan. Champ [Arshad Warsi] is an ace conman who's changed his identity more than his outfits. The story revolves around Master Madan, who receives an order to exterminate Champ. But is Champ really the prey or is there something more to it?
As the film opens, Mater Madan sticks a gun in the face of Champ and tells him that if the money is delivered as planned, he will kill him. In the meantime, he loves a good story. And Champ has one to tell him. Their meeting, Champ explains, is based on a misconception. Master Madan thinks Champ is Anthony Gonsalves, a journalist the villain Lucky Sharma [Chetan Hansraj] wants dead. But Champ is in fact Champak, who borrowed Anthony's identity after escaping from prison.
Meanwhile, Jiya [Minissha] is the only link who knows where the diamonds are stashed away. Unfortunately, the location [where the diamonds lie buried] is now a prison. The diamonds were stolen by a magician Raghu [Raghubir Yadav], who has been imprisoned for this act. In fact, Jiya is Raghu's daughter.
Detective Suraj Singh [Gulshan Grover] is entrusted the task of solving the mystery.
ANTHONY KAUN HAI? is not the usual thriller that Bollywood aficionados are used to watching. It's pretty evident at the start of the film itself that director Raj Kaushal and writer Soumik Sen have made a thriller that's targeted at the metros. The look as well as the technique [it's very stylish], besides the storytelling, would appeal to the elite more than the hoi polloi, the masses.
Although the story could've got very confusing and difficult to comprehend, since the film goes into flashbacks time and again, Raj Kaushal and Soumik have ensured that the layers in the story are peeled gradually. A number of sequences are noteworthy, especially the ones between Sanju and Arshad, and that's the mainstay of the enterprise. The climax of the film changes tracks and becomes a love story [Arshad-Minissha] and the sequence at the Bangkok International Airport is simply fantastic.
On the flip side, the storytelling is the type that would alienate the aam junta. Also, as mentioned above, the Sanjay Dutt factor as also the faceless identity of Anthony are major deterrents. Besides, the placement of songs raises eyebrows. Like, for instance, there are two songs that come back-to-back after the film has ended -- the first on Sanju-Arshad ['No Way'] and the second on Himesh Reshammiya ['Jabse Tumko Dekha']. Why?
There's no denying that director Raj Kaushal takes a giant leap with ANTHONY KAUN HAI?, in terms of technique as also storytelling. This is amongst the most stylish films made in the recent times, although Raj can and should also try to think from the Indian masses point of view when he attempts a film next. The content should strike a fine balance between gentry and masses.
Soumik Sen's choice of the story is right, but the screenplay could've been more cohesive. You don't feel completely satiated after you've watched the film. Yet, in all fairness, the writing is a notch above the ordinary. Himesh Reshammiya's music is foot-tapping. The last two tracks specifically hold appeal. Hemant Chaturvedi's cinematography is excellent. The D.O.P. captures Thailand on celluloid like never before. The film bears a glossy look all through and the beautiful locales of Krabi and Bangkok give the film an international look.
With Sanju in the background, the focus is on Arshad Warsi, who does an admirable job from start to end. The best part is that Arshad is always likeable; even if it's an ordinary sequence, the actor uplifts the portion with his amazing talent. Sanju looks dapper and does a decent job.
Minissha is likeable. In fact, the actress is far better in this film than she was in her first two films [YAHAAN, CORPORATE]. Anusha Dandekar has nothing much to do. Raghuveer Yadav is passable. Gulshan Grover is bankable. Ravi Baswani provides comic relief. His get-up is funny as well. Chetan Hansraj is hardly there.
On the whole, ANTHONY KAUN HAI? is a decent fare that would appeal to the elite more than the commoners. At the box-office, the film has the Sanju-Arshad pairing as its biggest strength, but the film lacks a strong screenplay to keep you hooked. The film has good initial-value and coupled with the star power and hype should sail safe for its distributors. But a long run is ruled out due to the mighty opposition next week [K.A.N.K.].