Our country has hundreds of cities. Thousands of streets. Lacs of homes. A billion people. A zillion problems. And so many problems. But there is one man who stands up and raises a voice against the system. One who challenges. Who dares. Who makes the difference.
That's the essence of NAYAK, directed by Shankar.
Shivaji Rao (Anil Kapoor) is a common man with an uncommon persona. A fearless television news reporter, his passion for his job and pursuit of the truth makes him incur the wrath of insatiable power hunters. Like Chief Minister Balraj Chauhan (Amrish Puri), for instance.
Balraj Chauhan is one of those due to whom the word 'politician' has earned its very own unflattering connotation. One fateful day, the reporter in Shivaji Rao assumes the disillusioned voice of the people and publicly interrogates the Chief Minister on the pathetic state of affairs.
Balraj Chauhan's answer is a mocking invitation to Shivaji Rao to become the Chief Minister for one day and see what he can do. To his dismay, Shivaji Rao accepts.
Little does Balraj Chauhan know that with this offer, he has dug his grave. Little does he realise that one man, one day, one chance is all that is required.
What follows is a dynamic battle of wits and fists.
The storyline sounds interesting, no doubt, but its implementation by director Shankar saddens you. Going by the director's track record, you expect NAYAK to be a hard-hitting statement on the current state of affairs, but the outcome is bland, unexciting and, at times, slapdash.
To start with, an ordinary citizen versus the corrupt politicians' saga has been witnessed time and again on the Indian screen. Only this time, the difference lies in the fact that the protagonist is appointed the Chief Minister of Maharashtra just for one day.
Remake of the Tamil blockbuster MUDHALVAN, NAYAK is an absolute letdown in terms of story-telling and direction. It has style, but mish-mash content. It has the required gloss, but lacks soul.
Director Shankar has chosen a script that meanders between reality and fantasy, but in the final tally falls into neither category. The film takes off well and succeeds in arresting your attention right till the gruelling television interview (Anil Kapoor-Amrish Puri), which is the turning point of this flick.
Subsequently, when Anil is appointed the C.M. for a day, he goes all out to change the lives of the common man, but the issues he takes up seem implausible to be sorted out in a matter of a few hours. Yet, a few sequences in the first half are riveting and keep the audience interest alive.
To cite instances:
* In the initial reels, a riot breaks out soon after a BEST driver pushes a student from the bus. The pandemonium that follows thereafter is brilliantly executed. The traffic jam and bedlam at Flora Fountain, one of the busiest business districts of Mumbai, is so true to life.
* Similarly, Anil Kapoor peeling the mask off Amrish Puri's face during the interview is superbly executed. Also, Anil issuing orders to arrest Amrish Puri and his ministers at the interval point holds interest.
Regrettably, the brakes fail in the post-interval portions!
After Amrish Puri's arrest at the interval point, you expect the drama to gain momentum in this half. Instead, the focus shifts to the romance between Anil and Rani.
Even otherwise, the second half has a plenty of unpalatable sequences. But the one that takes the cake is when Anil, who has won the elections and been appointed the C.M., gets into a disguise and dances in the fields with Rani.
The disguising act continues; sometimes he wears a turban and becomes a vegetable vendor (imagine a C.M. doing that!) or at times, he runs atop a double-decker bus and fights with a thug.
If Shankar's direction is not even half as inspiring as his previous efforts (GENTLEMAN, HUMSE HAI MUQABLA, HINDUSTANI), the script he has chosen is half-baked. Besides a faulty screenplay (second half), the placement of the songs in this half is faulty.
The songs pop up without valid situations, acting as speed-breakers in the process. In fact, a majority of the songs in the second half seem forced and have been incorporated only because Hindi films are incomplete without them!
A.R. Rahman's music is of a mixed variety. Barring 'Shakalaka Baby' (picturised on Sushmita Sen) and 'Chalo Chale Mitwa', the remaining numbers are just about okay. The special effects in the 'Saiyaan' number weren't required at all.
Cinematography (K.V. Anand) is awesome. The colourful sets (Thota Tharni) are imaginative. Editing (B. Lenin-V.T. Vijayan) is loose. The second half is very lengthy and can do with trimming. Dialogues are superb, mainly the ones mouthed by Paresh Rawal. The stunts are pulsating, especially the mud fight in the second half.
Anil Kapoor tries hard to live the character and succeeds to an extent. The actor is in form in a restricted few sequences only and that's thanks to a substandard screenplay. Rani Mukherji has no role to talk of. In fact, Pooja Batra has a better role than her.
Johny Lever's comedy falls flat. The ladies and family audience won't appreciate his one-liners, repeated time and again. Amrish Puri is quite good, but it is Paresh Rawal who steals the show with a fantastic performance.
On the whole, NAYAK does not meet the gargantuan expectations generated from a film of this magnitude. Its weak second half and a heavy price will see most of its distributors in the red. Disappointing.