The movie industry's romance with train travel is too well known by now. Images of private cabins/compartments, tasteful dining cars/coaches and railway platforms/stations cross your mind as you fondly recall several Hollywood and Bollywood movies. The train travel is peppered with scenes depicting romance, cheer, heartbreak, freedom, danger, robbery, crime, calamity... In my opinion, trains make for great movies!
For a raconteur who's planning to relate a crime story, well, it's easy to plot a thriller in a train journey: A moving mode of transport, the terrain, the proximity to unfamiliar people... All you need is to lace the film with occurrences and incidents that would give the spectator goose bumps.
RAJDHANI EXPRESS also uses this mode of transport [train] to narrate a story. In view of the fact that the genre is thriller, one expects smart lines and electrifying episodes, captivating goings-on and tension-filled moments, all seamlessly juxtaposed in the narrative to entice the spectator, but RAJDHANI EXPRESS does so half-heartedly.
Keshav [Leander Paes], an errand boy for a gunrunner, steals the weapon and a ticket to escape and travel in Rajdhani Express from Delhi to Mumbai. Inside the train, his fate is no better. Distanced, ridiculed and humiliated, he reacts by pointing his gun at his co-passengers. All hell breaks loose.
The Deputy Commissioner at ATS, Yadav [Jimmy Sheirgill], extracts political mileage from the situation. His motive is to get even with his boss, the Home Minister [Ishrat Ali], whose parents also happen to be on this train. Can Keshav escape the trap?
An intelligent thriller ought to have layers and sub-plots all through the narrative, making it hard to get restless and fidgety for even a second. Unfortunately, the writing of RAJDHANI EXPRESS is a mixed bag. The writing is dull for most parts in the first hour, holds your attention in the post-interval portions, but the conclusion leaves a lot to be desired.
Director Ashok Kohli chooses to tell a fascinating story, but it doesn't come across too well on screen. Instead of sharp confrontations, verbal showdowns and surprising twists, what's offered is the standard and customary drama that doesn't pack a punch after a point. Like I said, the second hour has its moments, but the ultimate resolution would leave the spectator confused. Cinematography is functional and so is the soundtrack.
Leander Paes delivers at times, but is awkward at places. He has the raw looks that this character demands, but the writing doesn't do justice to the expectations one has from him. Jimmy Sheirgill is natural enough. Priyanshu Chatterjee and Mukesh Rishi are the best of the lot. Both add so much to their respective roles. Sudhanshu Pandey is strictly okay. Sayali Bhagat doesn't get any scope. Gulshan Grover gets repetitive after a point. Ishrat Ali is perfect. Kiran Kumar, Achint Kaur and Shilpa Shukla get minimal scope. The actress enacting the part of the item girl is confident.
On the whole, RAJDHANI EXPRESS has its moments, but they are few and far between.