KHAKEE. Director: Rajkumar Santoshi. Players: Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan, Aishwarya Rai, Tusshar Kapoor, Atul Kulkarni, Tanuja. Music: Ram Sampath. Theatrical release.
Rajkumar Santoshi, who does not have a stellar reputation at working with mega-budgets and huge casts (Lajja, China Gate), finally turns the corner. Boasting a big budget and a huge cast once more, Santoshi comes up a winner. With Bachchan riding shotgun, Khakee delivers that rare Hindi film with a huge quotient of dazzling action-adventure, political suspense, and foot-stomping music.
The deceptively simple plot follows a band of five Mumbai cops sent into unfriendly territory to transport back for trial a controversial political prisoner (Kulkarni) accused of being a Pakistani spy. The men-in-khaki are headed by Bachchan’s paunchy midlevel order-giver. Along with a morally challenged Casanova-in-uniform (Kumar) and an idealistic rookie (Kapoor), they must also take along a beautiful passenger (Rai), a witness of a different kind.
Chased by machine gun-toting attackers who in turn are lead by a mysterious one-eyed gargoyle (Devgan), the rescue party has at their disposal only limited ammunition and cell phones that inconveniently go out of range. Out-flanked, out-gunned, and out-manned, our fearless five set out on a mission filled with danger, treacheries, and political conspiracies. Are the masked men after our fabulous five or are they after something else?
Santoshi’s taut direction brings to mind nothing short of the desi-Western classics Sholay and Mera Gaon Mera Desh. Breathlessly paced, evenly edited, the flick gets a huge boost from the hot-and-heavy Kumar-Rai romance and the torchy “Take me break me” tune on the soundtrack.
Unlike other actors, when Bachchan’s much-larger-than-life screen persona gets into a character, it’s a cause for celebration. Over the years, Bachchan has thus “celebrated” everything from angered youth to coolies to transvestites. With Khakee, Bachchan enshrines himself as a hero for all duty-bound cops that fight crime with one hand and bureaucracy with the other, making Khakee uniformly splendid.