[Has spoilers for Players and Race 1 and 2]
An Abbas-Mastan is an acquired taste, like single malt or Cuban cigars. Not everyone can appreciate the meticulous research that goes into the making of their crime-thrillers and the believability of their characters and situations. Even those who do often miss the small touches of consummate artistry that is their hallmark. For example in Race 2, a tense sequence in which world-famous stud-art-thief is pulled out through a manhole into the bottom of a get-away-truck (this you have seen in a Mission Impossible movie) is as much as about the heist as it is about comely lass Amisha Patel’s first-day-GABBA-pitch-bouncy cleavage, delegated as she is, of all the characters in this crime caper, to bend and lend a helping hand to the world-famous-stud-art-thief (this duality I can guarantee you have not seen in any Mission Impossible movie).
Or when at the climax when the John Abraham breaks down and blames his break-up with the Bipasa Basu character for all this evil, one cannot but doff one’s cap to the allusion to the real world.
Or appreciate how Anil Kapoor’s shaven body is a metaphor for the rapid deforestation in the Amazon basin, a criminal heist perpetrated by the logging mafia.
For me though, an Abbas-Mastan is mostly about learning, like a Discovery channel special on the mating habits of polar bears, providing as it does a fascinating insight into the world of high-stake crime, a world that we otherwise know so little about. So here are some of the things I have learnt.
1. Master-criminals are immensely rich. They fly in private dream-liners fitted out like the interior of a honeymoon suite at a 7 star hotel. The homes of Arab Sheikhs are hovels in Dharavi compared to where they rest their heels. They deal only in billions of dollars— 50 and 100 billion being standard denominations. Picking one of their pockets on a random day would make Greece solvent and what Obama gave as TARP money to investment banks, a successful criminal in the Abbas-Mastan world, would not even get out of bed for.
2. Master-criminals are into a lot of sports. No not something mundane stuff like cricket or football. He-man sports like no-rules cage-fighting or sexy sports like archery, sword-fighting, gambling, racing cars and horses. And they don’t just play games. They excel in it. In Race 2, Ranvir Singh (Saif Ali Khan) comes to sword-fight with Omeesha (Jacqueline Fernandez), Omeesha thinks she has bested him in fencing but then when he leaves, her clothes fall off (yes I know you saw this in a Katherine Zeta Jones movie but please bear with me), so awesome are Saif’s skills with a saber. I won’t be surprised if in Race 3, Ranveer Singh challenges Kasparov to a game of chess, Kasparov thinks that he wins and then after Ranveer leaves, the great Grandmaster realizes he was playing with black and not with white, and it’s Ranveer Singh who has taken the baazi (just as the Race theme plays in the background).
3. Super-criminals speak in a criminal lingo that is cheesier than lasagna. Which means they almost always say “Heyyyy baby” and “Come into my lair” and “You are so hot” and “Pop my cherry”. You would think that being as suave and stylish as they are (they drink champagne always), they would show a bit more class. But hey the brothers know better.
4. Master-criminals make elaborate heist-schemes that depend critically on multiple co-incidences which they know will happen in the future. Almost as if the future is scripted. And, oh yes, the object of the heist is always outrageous. Like the Shroud of Turin.
5. Criminal master-minds extensively sample Hollywood movies for their strategies, drawing from disparate sources like Italian Job, Mission Impossible, Ocean’s Eleven and National Treasure. Despite watching so many movies, they still regularly fall for the “the reams of paper under a layer of actual currency notes” trick.
6. The world’s most dangerous criminals (even white guys who cannot understand Hindi) obtain breaking news from one and one source only. India TV (Race 2). And based on that knowledge, they pull off heists worth billions of dollars.
7. Passwords of the most secure locations in the world are never a random juxtaposition of characters. Hell they aren’t even alphanumeric. The password that protects national treasures like the Turin Shroud are short, meaningful English words that can easily be deduced by the simple “get invisible goo on the fingers of your mark and then later observe the buttons pressed” trick.
8. Super criminals have their own premier “Superclub” laws of Physics, not applicable to other mortals, ones that can only be accessed by a Black “Players” Card. This allows their cars to jump up 6 stories in the air, and lets ginormous bricks of gold to be tossed around as lightly as a bra (“Players”) . This special Physics, not to be consumed with John Abraham’s special Physique, also allows super-criminals to possess the kind of technology that one can scarcely believes exist—-pressure-sensors that can “see” through matter and transmit thermo-pressure images to black goggles, vehicles that come standard with parachutes, and cards whose faces can re-arrange themselves. As a matter of fact, the only tech they don’t have are wrist-bands that promote well-being and patriotism.
9. Super criminals never kill their sworn enemies through the simple expedient of putting a bullet through their heads at close range. No. They put bombs underneath their cars which will detonate if the car goes below a certain speed. They hire grossly incompetent snipers. They construct enormous ruses, which includes double and triple crossing and egregious fornication. Basically everything, short of the simplest thing.
10. Criminals get fixated on a certain metaphor. In “Players”, it is the “Let’s play the game” and “We are players yaaahhh”. In Race, it is “tez”, raftaar” and most surprisingly “race”.
11. When at work, master criminals make Bond look like Guddu Rangeela, so suave they are with their impeccably tailored suits, their race-course champagne-drinking and their use of expensive Mont Blanc pens. But the moment they let their hair down, they transform themselves into 19-year-olds on spring-break, singing songs of party-sharty with nothing but mid-riff baring, talli-dancing “party on my mind”, while doing ass-grinding-into-crotch dance steps.
12. And finally, the world of the super-criminals is full of surprises. When you least expect it, Aftab Shivdasani pops up. Or Aditya Pancholi. Or Bobby Deol in a sombrero playing an “illusionist”.
As a matter of fact, there are so many twists are there that in the movie “Players”, a vital prop used by a master-criminal is the book “Oliver Twist”. Really.
What’s heartening however is that the twists all follow a regular template, so regular that one might even say they are about as “I never saw that coming” as Rahul Gandhi becoming the Congress vice-president.
For instance, those that are “dead” are not—only waiting for a suitable time to make a dramatic entrance, preferably driving a car into a plane or off a multi-storied building.
When master-criminal 1 discovers master-criminal 2 is double-crossing him, he just plays along because otherwise, it would not be a “Race”. Or he would not be a “Player”. Till it is revealed that master-criminal 2 knew that master-criminal 1 knew that master-criminal 2 was double-crossing from the get-go but he also played along because otherwise, yes you guess it, it would not be a “Race”. Or he would not be a “Player”.
And for those that don’t get the pattern, master-criminals are only too helpful, stopping as they do, in the middle of the breakneck action, to explain (sometimes looking straight at the camera) their motivations and modus operandi.
While all the time, and that is where the true devilish nature of the whole scheme becomes apparent, another major heist is going on, right on front of you.
And you do not even realize it.