WANTED. Director: Prabhu Deva. Players: Salman Khan, Ayesha Takia, Vinod Khanna, Ramesh Namdeo., Prakash Raj. Music: Sajid-Wajid. Theatrical release (EROS).
Hindi movies that are remakes of successful films from Indian regional cinema have so much at stake. To retain as much as possible of the original flavor, the “copy” must walk a fine line between maintaining fidelity to the original, while appealing to a very different, larger, audience with different cultural sensibilities. In Wanted, the Hindi remake of Pokiri (previously made in both Tamil and Telugu), the writing on the wall is clear, violent, and yet, tantalizing. Director Prabhu Deva and star Khan make their mark in a style that boasts a bloody outline, hyper-paced camera movements, and a plot that is stylishly bloody.
Khan plays neighborhood toughie Radhe, a hired gun that warring Mumbai gangs begrudgingly kowtow to. Radhe’s reckless, one-man-army arm-twisting ways earn him both friends and admirers in an escalated, politically sensitive tug of war between the cops and local gangs, who carry marching orders from invisible overseas masterminds. Radhe’s hard-hitting ways soon spawn an urban legend that unwittingly invites attention from the overseas ringleader for the bad guys (Raj), who comes to India to sort out a power struggle between his legions.
Deva, who previously directed the Tamil version of Pokiri, aims for, and gets, an edgy, often cringingly violent story that is not for the squeamish. There is commendable support from Takia, Namdeo, and especially Raj. While the soundtrack pulsates with a hip-hop, nightclub flavor, and a couple of the tunes are catchy, the real purpose of the songs is to provide a respite from the gory nail-in-the-cranial imagery captured once too often. Just how many ways can you kill a guy? See it and don’t say we didn’t warn you.