The brother versus brother saga has been a Hindi film favorite for decades. This time around with Brothers the Mumbai film industry is legally retelling a Hollywood tale. At first blush the 2011 film Warrior seems perfect material for an Indian avatar with the premise of brothers physically battling each other — essentially a version of the Mahabharat set in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA). Unfortunately, there is nothing epic in this lackluster desi version which neither captivates on the emotional front, nor thrills with physical stunts.
After serving a life sentence, former MMA fighter Gary Fernandes (Jackie Shroff) is released from prison and has great difficulty adjusting to the world he left. Tortured by memories of his wife Maria (Shefali Shah) Gary cannot be a present father to now grown son Monty (Sidharth Malhotra), and he pines for estranged older son David (Akshay Kumar).
Unbeknownst to Gary, David has a family of his own which includes wife Jenny (Jacqueline Fernandez) and a young daughter who suffers from a potentially deadly kidney disease. In hopes of reuniting his broken family, Gary makes old wounds fresh. His failure as a husband and parent caused Maria’s death and a bitter rift between the once close brothers.
Word spreads of a world-class MMA tournament coming to India. David decides he must win the prize money to save his daughter’s life. Childhood abandonment and a grudge against David fuels Monty’s thirst for the title. Ultimately, a steel cage match pits David and Monty against each other in a dramatic, brutal fight.
Training Sequence: Kumar has always been one of the fittest actors in the industry. In Brothers he proves himself reigning champ. In fact, the training montage becomes an enjoyable testimony to the 47-year-old actor’s strength and stamina. Beefed up for his role of Monty, Malhotra is also up to the physical challenge. For the duration of the sequence, he makes the audience forget that he usually plays the lean, romantic guy.
Wife and Mother Montages: Moments of tenderness between David and Jenny and the sweet childhood memories shared by Maria and her sons are actually the few, meaningful interactions between actors in the film. These two sequences showing love and acceptance blossom between characters further the story and, for a few minutes anyway, capture viewer interest.
Jacqueline Fernandez: Is Fernandez in the same league as Kangana Ranaut or Deepika Padukone when it comes to emoting? Absolutely not. But this role is a welcome departure from her usual sex-kitten routine. Jacqueline looks radiant and portrays Jenny sincerely.
Writing: Aside from a few tweaks, Warrior could have easily been adapted page by page but alas, Brothers is chock-full of lifeless dialogues and gaping plot holes. A small example: David mentions that along with his job as a physics teacher, he and his wife each work three jobs to make ends meet. Yet the audience sees the Fernandes family living a comfortable lifestyle, throwing a pricey birthday party for their daughter, and has no clue what the other jobs are.
Direction: Karan Malhotra’s last outing as director was for Agneepath and again the director confuses over-the-top melodrama with intensity. He even adds the age-old dash of thunder and lightning during charged scenes. Malhotra tried fixing something that wasn’t broken, and he ends up taking out every hint of magic possessed by the source material.
Background Score: Audience eardrums are put to the test in the first half as loud orchestration commands viewers to react to half-baked writing and senseless scenes. Post-interval cage match music must have been composed by a man who spent his awkward teen years in a video game arcade (playing Street Fighter, to be precise).
Christian Stereotypes: There are more caricatures in this film than characters, including the hackneyed tradition of giving Indian Christians surnames like Briganza and Fernandez, along with having characters ending many of their sentences with “man”. And please, do NOT participate in a drinking game where you take a shot whenever you spot Christian iconography. You. Will. Die.
Akshay Kumar & Sidharth Malhotra: The dashing duo have an entire film built around them. Yet aside from a 30-second interaction in the climax, neither actor shows solid acting chops. Malhotra has few expressions while Kumar delivers nothing new or memorable.
Item Song (My Name Is Mary): You’d think Kareena Kapoor Khan could provide some respite from a tiring flick with a sizzling song and dance. But beautiful Bebo cannot salvage this poorly produced and choreographed number. If her aim was to remain sexy and relevant 15 years after her debut in the film industry, she made the wrong choice with this cinematic vehicle.
Missing Moves: If you grew up in the 90s you know much of Kumar’s career as an action-star rested on his famed roundhouse kick. Yet after showcasing his strength in a grueling training routine, not once does Kumar use the move on opponents. Looks like the black-belt star saves the stunts only for reality show appearances.
Jackie Shroff: It’s no secret Shroff can pull off a masterful performance with the right guidance. But in Brothers, Jaggu Dada gives enough melodrama to shame any filmi mama. Scenes would have been much better if the director had reined in the copious tears, incessant wailing, and pitiful pleading.
Brothers is a poorly made adaptation as it has none of the qualities that made Warrior an emotional, highly engaging film. Cinemagoers are much better off watching the other ‘brother’ playing in theaters — the one of the Bajrangi variety.
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Shivani cannot remember a time when she wasn’t madly in love with Indian cinema, which now inspires much of her writing. She lives in both New York City and Twitterpur at @Shivani510.