READY. Director: Anees Bazmi. Players: Salman Khan, Asin, Paresh Rawal, Sharat Saxena. Music: Pritam. Theatrical release (T Series)

film_ready

If imitation is the surest form of flattery, then Salman Khan’s entourage must be congratulated. They have done an amazing job of begging, borrowing, and downright just pilfering elements from a whole bunch of movies to come up with a box office hit. What makes a “box office hit,” however, can be an eternity away from anything resembling good entertainment.Partner, Houseful, Golmaal (or for that matter any Ajay Devgn “comedy”) succeeded at the box office despite—or perhaps because of—an abundance of thinly veiled raunch, over-the-top slapstick, and a general cacophony of physical and social impossibilities. Indeed, a far cry from anything even vaguely resembling good cinema.

Ready, alas, succumbs to that same success/excess continuum. When the lights come on again, what remains is a deceivingly well-dressed exterior that at its core takes viewer intelligence for granted and emerges amazingly hollow and ginormously boring.

Khan, who surprisingly manages to keep his shirt on for almost the entire film, is corralled into what should be a cake walk for him, given his major star status. A Hatfields-&-McCoys style family feud, guns and all, centers on the only common link between two warring clans—the coy beauty Pooja (Asin, often looking ill at ease) whose inheritance both sets of “uncles” are after. To escape the clutches of the always-plotting relatives, Pooja leaves Thailand for India. Realizing the futility of the endless family tug of war, Pooja enlists help from the slacker Prem (Khan), who in turn recruits the deviously scheming accountant Bhardwaj (Rawal). The three of them join forces to stage a familial sting operation to unite the dueling cousins.

Where does one start? The script reads as if it was written on the fly—almost as an after thought—lest anything detract from the producers—including Khan’s brother Sohail  and Bhushan Kumar (son of the late music tycoon Gulshan Kumar)—wallowing in the lead male character’s super-machismo smugness. Khan gets to voice such winning lines as, “Aaj pehali baar kisi aurat ne akkal bi baat ki.” That translates into, “It must be the first time a woman has said anything intelligent.” One is tempted to reach for Captain Kirk’s intergalactic walkie-talkie and command: “Beam me up, Scottie, there is no intelligent life over here,” over and over!

The only flicker of hope—a flicker, mind you, not a blaze—is Pritam’s musical score. “Character dheela” is a fine dance number sung with gusto by Neeraj Sridhar and Amrita Kak. After that it’s downhill again. The biggest fault lies in Salman Khan going in and out of character onscreen. The only Hindi actor who has successfully gotten away with talking into the camera and hamming it up mid-scene is Amitabh Bachchan. No one else comes close.

Khan’s last movie, Dabangg, was the extremely rare Hindi entry to win over both the box office by becoming the highest grossing Hindi movie of 2010 and also winning major accolades, including both the prestigious Indian National Award and Filmfare awards for best Hindi film of the year. After those highs, Salman Khan could use a dose of humility—something Ready readily misses by a mile.  Avoid at all costs.

EQ: D

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