“Wanted” is not so much a movie but a rip in the space-time continuum, a relativistic worm-hole through which the Bollywood of the 80s has crashed into the 2009s bringing back the glory days of single-screen chawanni-flying and CT-marooing dhisoom dhashoom action and chakoom chukum “abhe chamiya ek chummi de ke ja” romancing into the Rs 500 nacho-selling world of fancy multiplexes.
Take that Sanjay Gupta and all you Tarantino- Leone worshipers who think its cool to take inspiration from Spaghetti Westerns and pulp fiction while neglecting our glorious heritage of Garam Halawa—“Wanted” is a box-office cracker raking in so much green that will make you turn wannabes green.
And take that Aamir Khan— “Wanted” is as non-nonsensical as your “Ghajini” but with none of the six-pack “inspired by Memento” pretentiousness that characterized that pile of hot steaming turd.
Prabhudeva’s “Wanted”, evidently a frame-by-frame lift from his own “Pokkiri” has no story. Absolutely none. Its DNA contains the nucleotides of Action, Song and Random Act of Villainy arranged in a repeating pattern. There is no ambiguity, no non-linearity, no homo-erotic friendships and absolutely no attempt at character or narrative development.
Instead there is plenty of Neanderthal machismo coming from the greatest caveman of our times—-Salman Khan. With his puffed-up “sharaabi” cheeks he now resembles his dear friend Shoaib Akthar and when he moves thrashing the bad men to pulp sending themselves into orbit with an escape-velocity imparting fauladi mukka, this is as close to a human embodiment of a 30 compartment steam express that you are going to get, a spectacle of violence sure to send shivers down the spines of pavement dwellers and endangered species.
Did I say Neanderthal? I think I did. If you believe that women should be characterized as well-rounded independent people in a movie then maybe “Wanted” is not for you. Well let me qualify that. Women are represented as “well rounded” but that’s about it.In a throw-back to the 80s, there is nothing size-zero (except perhaps the magnitude of her histrionic abilities) about the heroine Ayesha Takia (the hero calls her a “zyada charbi-wala gosht” in one scene and in another sparklingly classy sequence tells her “Aisa dhakka naheen maarne ka..hum log mens log hain na…delicate delicate jagga main taqleef pohunchta hai”) and the only reason she is in the movie is because there are two reasons she is in the movie. And the camera spends a lot of time highlighting those facts.
There is the old-school Johnny “Liver” type comedy sequences and in yet another another shocking throw-back, the greatest of Shakti Kapoor is channeled by Mahesh Manjrekar playing a lip-licking lecherous cop who along with the other galaxy of other bad men engages in not-so-random acts of shoulder-ripping “Main kutta hoon jawani ko soong leta hoon” depravity of the “Lijjat” (=Le Ijjat) kind, the type one never thought one would see after Y2K.
Mention must be made of Prabhu-deva’s direction style which is Godard-style God-ly and Dard-ly. If you think only Quentin can do “in references” you haven’t experienced Prabhu-deva who doffs his cap to some of the greatest sequences of masala moviedom, all without even realizing doing it. For instance, the villain (Ghani bhai) takes off his dark glasses and the camera goes close to focus on his evil visage in a tribute scene to Gulshan Grover doing exactly the same thing and saying “Kismaatttt” in the movie “Aatish”. And then as a crowning glory, there is a “maut ka date fix” kind of sequence which is a shout-out to the greatest movie of all time.
But my most favorite moment was when during the climax the villain tries to set Salman’s shirt on fire and he takes it off and Prabhu-deva holds the camera on him, almost extorting the crowd to get up on their seats and throw everything at the screen.
It was at that precise instant that my mind was sucked back into the time-hole as a magic slideshow of images flashed before my eyes—-of the original Slumdog Anil Kapoor punching evil men with his fists on fire and then flailing his arms in an epileptic dance with heavyweight Farah to “Jab jab teri nazar se milta hai mera nazar” as gulaaal bombs burst behind him in “Rakhwala”, of Sunny Deol thrashing the living daylights of bad men in “Lootere” as a buxom Juhi cavorted on the beach to “Main teri raani tu raaja mera” sending my hormones into overdrive and Jeetendra, in white trousers and shoes slapping a 250 lb behemoth gunda in “Zahreelay”: “Yeh is hapte ke liye. [Slap]. Yeh aagle haapte ke liye. [Slap] Aur yeh us ka baad ke liye [mega slap], of Jackie Shroff breaking a brick with his forehead in a movie (most probably “Sadak Chaap”) and of course Prabhuji catching bullets and doing “aisi ki taisi” with Newtonian mechanics in countless celluloid classics.
Awash in nostalgia and with tears steaming down my eyes I, a child of the 80s, once again felt “wanted”.