BOSS. Director: Anthony D’Souza. Players: Akshay Kumar, Mithun Chakraborty, Shiv Pandit, Ronit Roy, Aditi Rao Hydari, Denny Denzongpa, Johnny Lever. Music: Meet Bros Anjjan. Hindi with English sub-titles. Theatrical release (Viacom 18).
Director D’Souza’s last entry Blue (2009), also featuring Akshay Kumar, quietly sank in shark-infested box-office waters and Akshay Kumar received only a lukewarm response to his last movie Once Upon A Time in Mumbai Dobaara! Rolling against odds, Kumar agreed on D’Souza handling the reins once again in Boss. Returning to Kumar’s familiar action-adventure hounds, Boss is a rough-housing, loud framework, outlining a surprisingly coy family drama. The settling dust reveals that D’Souza and Kumar have pulled just the right puppeteer tricks to land their Boss just out of the reach of indecency and into the grasp of respectability.
Set in Delhi, the aging gang leader Big Boss (Denzongpa) takes under his wings an angry youth he rescues from the streets. The youth grows up to be, simply, Boss (Kumar), a modern Robin Hood who inevitably lands in the crosshairs of Inspector Ayushmann (Ronit Roy), a tyrant cop who has transformed the police corps into his personal fiefdom. Unbeknownst to either Boss or Ayushmann, Boss’s long lost younger brother Shiv (Shiv Pandit) falls for Ayushmann’s sister Ankita (Aditi Rao Hydari), setting in motion a deadly blood feud between the two families.
To his credit, Kumar can pull off mouthing the stupidest, most absurd Hindi-English amalgamated script lines as if it’s nobody’s business. Not having a female lead cast opposite him, Kumar gets free range of both action and comedy in the hands of Farhad-Sajid’s script based on Pokkiri Raja, Mammootty’s 2010 Malayalam hit. The noble scoundrel butting head with a rotten-to-the-core official is rich thematic fodder that keeps on giving.
Taking on a personality of its own, the most outrageous artifact in Boss is Akshay Kumar having a ginormous bad hair movie. Kumar’s unevenly slicked-and-pulled back tight coif had to be a newbie stylist’s only chop job before they not-so-stylishly got booted off the set.
Kumar’s hair statement here is hands down the worst haircut on a male lead in a Hindi movie since Salman Khan opted for the reinforced middle parting for a highly unflattering I-walked-away-from-the-stylist-before-they-were-done look in Tere Naam (2003). Don’t be surprised if your cat runs away from home as soon as it sees Kumar’s hairdo here-it’s that scary!
Fortunately, Boss gets a boost from a terrific supporting cast. Chakraborty, who never got full credit for emoting on camera because of his legacy as primarily an action star, is on the mark as Boss’s estranged father. Denzongpa as the criminal kingpin with a soft center and Lever as a buffoon lower tier copper are cast appropriately. In the romantic leads, Pandit and Hydari are also appealing.
As the bad guy, Roy’s Ayushmann is a superbad bundle of anger. Buffed, and lost to a dark one-man reality of his own making, Ayushmann embodies the strong-arming beat cop that is often looked upon with suspicion in many Indian cities. Planting incriminating evidence against suspects who fall out of favor, destroying evidence that would incriminate himself and, worse, killing off suspects in custody, Roy’s Ayushmann is the most well-defined villain since Sunjay Dutt in Agneepath (2012).
Musically, newcomers Meet Bros Anjjan’s composition, mostly electro scores, and “Har Kisiko Nahi Milta,” a melody, almost note for note, from Kalyanji-Anandji’s track by the same name from Feroz Khan’s hit Jaanbaaz (1985). The standout number is Sonu Nigam and Anjan Ankit’s “Pita Se Hai Naam Tera,” a neo-qawalli that strikes a melancholy ode to a father-son rift.
By bringing together a veteran cast, tossing Bachchan’s story narration and borrowing music from the 1980s, director D’Souza taps into a nostalgic vein. Pacing the comedy at the same hypersonic speed as script and continuously drumming up the animosity between Boss and Ayushmann for an eventual winner takes all bare knuckle brawl, it’s best to suspend reality for 2 hours and just go along for the ride. Opening on 3,000 screens worldwide, including 100 in the United States and a special screening in Pakistan, D’Souza and Kumar’s Boss makes the rules.
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.