‘Bollywood copying Hollywood’ is one thing that never ceases to amaze you, no matter what year, what century you are in. While everyone’s attention is diverted by Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha which is an official remake of Tom Hanks’ Forrest Gump, Anil Kapoor delivers his second unofficial remake of another classic Hollywood flick.
Back in 1989, he played Clint Eastwood’s character from A Few Dollars More in Joshilay while 33 years later plays Lee Van Cleef’s character in Netflix’s Thar. What began as an Indian Western ended up as a cheap version of a loveable Spaghetti Western, and did no favor to Anil Kapoor’s son Harshvardhan Kapoor who keeps on delivering duds, despite multiple launches.
Set in 1985, Thar begins with the murder of a young man in the desert, while an older couple is gunned down ahead of their daughter’s wedding. Inspector Surekha Singh (Anil Kapoor) is tasked to solve both cases and realizes that they might be linked. Enters a young antique dealer Siddharth (Harshvardhan Kapoor) who is searching for labor who could help him in his work. He catches everyone’s eyes in town, including the Inspector, but there is more to the matter than meets the eye.
The mystery regarding the killings deepens as more people die for no reason. The inspector and his subordinate Bhure (Satish Kaushik) who are on the right track most of the time rattle the cage of the dacoits, who believe that the Inspector must be eliminated. Do the dacoits succeed in getting away from the law? How is the murder of the young man in the desert linked with the older couple’s murder? How does the mysterious young man feature in the plot? Watch Thar on Netflix, if you want answers to all these questions.
Thankfully, Anil Kapoor and his son Harshvardhan Kapoor don’t play father and son, because firstly, they don’t look like father and son, and secondly, it wouldn’t have helped any of them. The film’s cinematography reminds one of Sholay (which was ‘mentioned’ at the start), while the art direction takes the audience back to the time when Mr. India must have been in the pre-production phase. It seems the background score was composed after listening to Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks, but it is a better attempt than many. As are the aerial shots at the beginning of the film, which take you back to the 1970s when birds were prominent in films shot in the desert.
The plot is heavily inspired by Hollywood Westerns where ‘an old sheriff’ is tasked with a baffling case, and a young man is ridding the town of bad guys who might have done him harm. The story is so predictable that by the fifteenth minute, you would know what you are into, hoping to be wrong about the conclusion. But after nearly two hours, you will find out that the film in front of you is the Bollywood version of For A Few Dollars More. Had the director stayed loyal to the genre, it would have helped the film but he had to fulfill the Saw inspiration in his mind and wreck it all with literally a ‘torturous’ execution.
Women are used as supporting characters; only Fatima Sana Sheikh has a bigger role (compared to others) and gives more expressions in the film than the leading man, but her problem is that she doesn’t look like the Rajasthani village belle. It was good to see Satish Kaushik with Anil Kapoor again, but he looked too old to be a cop. Last but not the least, the film’s editing is what keeps the audience’s interest alive, till the time editor Aarti Bajaj starts getting bored, and when that happens, the audience loses their interest as well.
Besides the torture scene, the film’s dialogues are also laced with cuss words, there are unnecessary sex scenes and an angle to blame Pakistan for everything. The second act of the film is where the director loses the plot, and so does the audience. Yes, the Western theme of revenge is still there, but dominated by so many other things that by the time the end arrives, you either know what is going to happen or have switched off to another flick.
The Verdict 2/5
Director Raj Singh Chaudhary tries his best to stay away from the path of Clint Eastwood – Lee Van Cleef’s flick but is unable to do so. The mystery behind the young man, the older man’s frustrations, the ‘Western’ setting, and the secondary role of women is exactly how director Sergio Leone designed his film in the mid-1960s. After nearly six decades, an Indian director tries his best to restart an Indian Western genre, but that ship has sailed (with Sholay), and sunk (with Joshilay).
Talking about Joshilay, the film was also a blatant copy of For A Few Dollars More, the same inspiration behind Thar, with Anil Kapoor moving from the ‘Angry Young Man’ character to the ‘Angry Old Man’ character with ease. His son, however, looks more like a B-grade version of Ali Fazal (yes, the same guy who is now working in Hollywood!) just like Harman Baweja was a failed copy of Hrithik Roshan. He needs to come out of his father’s shadow if he wants to do well, otherwise, Anil Kapoor will keep relaunching him, and he will keep disappointing him as an actor.
On the whole, Thar could have been a better film had the makers used the setting to their advantage instead of borrowing the plot from an already popular Spaghetti Western. You need brains to make a good Western, not the technology, the background score, and one-liners because if that was the case, Spaghetti Westerns might never have gone out of fashion and everyone would be making them.