Grudge Match

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e4223badb64ee475c4dadb2b5d49218a-2FAMILY—TIES OF BLOOD. Director: Rajkumar Santoshi. Players: Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Bhumika Chawla, Aryeman, Shernaz Patel. DVD (Adlabs). Hindi with English subtitles.

Four years ago, when Bachchan and Santoshi last united onscreen, they came up with the excellent cop story Khakee. In Family, they turn to a criminal match-up of a different sort to deliver a rough-edged grudge match that picks up steam at just the right moment.

Bachchan’s mastery at playing gangster types is legendary (Deewar, Don, Sarkar). Here he is fitted into Viren Sahai, a Mumbai patriarch and underworld kingpin who makes his home-away-from-home in Bangkok, from where he returns from time to time to settle scores. One such jaunt to Mumbai goes horribly awry when a gangland encounter ends with Sahai accidentally shooting an innocent bystander from a middle-class family. This sets the stage for an eye-for-an-eye vengeance feud between the two families.

The predictable first half of the story that traces canteen owner Shekhar (Kumar) romancing Kavita (Chawla) would be a washout if the plot ended there. It’s the second half, however, that makes Family gel. Santoshi cunningly borrows from Hollywood classics to render a taut hostage drama when Bachchan’s all-powerful Sahai clan is whisked away by none other than Aryan (Aryeman), Shekhar’s rebellious younger brother.

Throughout the second half, Bachchan’s Sahai wears the exact same black shirt and striped white jacket. With this nifty costume trick (courtesy of Dustin Hoffman’s gangster-wear from Scarface, the Hollywood entry Family most resembles) Bachchan pulls off a clever fashion coup while helping maintain script continuity. Pretty amazing stuff!

The Santoshi-Sridhar Raghavan script, however, shortchanges the female characters. Both Chawla as Kumar’s doctor wife, and Patel as Bachchan’s estranged wife, work hard but are handicapped by truncated screen time. In the stampede of men sorting out their machismo, it’s a shame the women get ignored. Even with these limitations, it’s safe to say that Bachchan rescues this Family.

—Aniruddh Chawda

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