WBRi Movie Review: Players (Hindi, 2012) - Sizzling Bipasha Basu Delivers Cracking Performance in Stylish Bollywood Thriller

Players (Hindi, 2012) Poster

Note - also see our interview with Abhishek Bachchan & Sonam Kapoor on Players posted here >

Calcutta, Jan 6, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) If you are a fan of sleek and stylish Hollywood heist films, chances are high that you have already seen the 1969 cult classic ‘The Italian Job.’ The movie became such a rage that it was remade in 2003 and the new version turned out to be a classic too. Closer home, from the day it was announced that the director duo Abbas-Mustan had acquired the official rights to make an Indian version of the film, speculations were rife as to whether they would be able to live up to the really high benchmark that had been set by the original film (or by the 2003 version, for that matter!).

Trailer - Players (2012)

The star cast of the proposed film, titled ‘Players’, did not inspire much confidence either. With all due respect, Abhishek Bachhan, Bobby Deol, Sonam Kapoor, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Bipasha Basu (who hasn’t had a solo hit for a long, long time) and Sikander Kher are not exactly ‘hot properties’ in the Bollywood circles. Still, the merits of the storyline (which, in essence, is the same as the original movie) could not be ignored and the near impeccable record of Abbas-Mustan in the crime-thriller genre (the occasional ‘Naqaab’ excluded) was enough for cinegoers to look forward to a well-made, interesting suspense movie. For most parts, however, they were mistaken!

‘Players’ kicks off with noted criminal ‘Victor Dada’ (Vinod Khanna) hatching a grand robbery plan with his favourite protégé, Charlie (Abhishek Bachhan). The two recruit a team of skilful conmen, who would help ‘Charlie’ and ‘Victor Dada’ in making their plan successful. With master illusionist ‘Ronnie’ (Bobby Deol), arms and explosives expert ‘Bilal’ (Sikander Kher), the free-spirited ‘Spider’ (Neil Nitin Mukesh), the glamourous and fiesty ‘Riya’ (Bipasha Basu) and the software hacker ‘Naina’ (Sonam Kapoor), ‘Charlie’ sets out to accomplish his mission. The task on hand is clear enough: ‘Charlie’ and his motley team of ‘players’ have to rob a large amount of gold, from a moving train, in about 10 seconds flat. The gang, with their wide range of trickery and skill (albeit in a dubious field!) manage to achieve success in their quest too. All set for a happy ending, are we? As those who have watched ‘The Italian Job’ would already know, apparently not!

Just when the celebrations for a successful heist are about to start, it is revealed that someone from the team has double-crossed, framing the others for the robbery and walking away with all the riches himself (herself, anyone?). The others vow to get even with traitor and here starts the main cat-and-mouse story of ‘Players’, with startling plot twists, daring stunts and elaborate plan-making by our lead characters, to teach the culprit a lesson. While the identity of the double-crosser is, of course, revealed in the movie, we won’t be providing any spoilers here. Suffice it to say that the directors have an unexpected twist regarding this factor in the climax of the movie.

The problem with ‘Players’ is that, while the plot sounds absolutely absorbing on paper (read the last two paragraphs for proof!), it does not transpire to be half as impressive when portrayed onscreen. The movie has its sparkling moments, with action director Allan Amin doing a stellar job during the actual train-robbery sequence. The sleekness with which the climax has been executed is also worth a special mention. The movie is a visual delight, with cinematographer Ravi Yadav doing a top-notch job of capturing the exotic beauty of the Russian locales. The dialogs, penned by Rohit Jugraj and Sudip Sharma, are smart too, adding to the overall feeling of suspense and anticipation in the movie.

‘Players’ is pegged back by inconsistent performances from its lead characters. Abhishek Bachhan, as ‘Charlie’, is easily the standout actor in the movie (not that it says much about the others, though!). Vinod Khanna, as the criminal mastermind ‘Victor Dada’ hams his way to glory. The veteran actor is certainly not in his elements here. Bobby Deol, as ‘Ronnie’, looks plain disinterested. Neil Nitin Mukesh does okay in what is probably the most challenging role in the young actor’s career. His character is one of the most interesting ones in this otherwise insipid ensemble cast. Sikander Kher, as ‘Bilal’ has only a few scenes. The movie does manage to draw some genuine laughs from the audience, thanks to veteran funnyman Johnny Lever, who, thankfully, is in top form here. The same, however, cannot be said for Omi Vaidya, who, as ‘Sunny’, delivers an outlandish, over-the-top performance. The sooner Vaidya realizes that he does not need to repeat his ‘3 Idiots’ dialog delivery styles, the better. Aftab Shivdasani, in a brief role, is adequate.

The movie sees Sonam Kapoor for the first time in a glamorous avatar. While the Bollywood fashionista does manage to look ravishing, her performance leaves a lot to be desired. Her turn as an expert computer hacker is totally unconvincing. Bipasha Basu, as the piping hot ‘Riya’, delivers a cracking performance, however. Her smart dialog delivery and fabulous emoting skills manage to leave a mark in the film. The actress also sizzles in the much talked about red bikini scene.

Any movie belonging to the crime thriller genre requires smart screenplay and crisp editing. ‘Players’ takes a hit on these counts too. The pace of the movie is too slow (barring the robbery sequence) and while things do pick up after the interval, the narrative is not compelling enough to keep the viewers hooked at all times. The movie also has too many plot twists and turns and, except the one at the climax, most of the others are rather predictable. The directors, in their bid to ensure commercial success, seem to have mixed and matched too much of everything in the movie. The results, however, are far from desirable.

Abbas-Mustan’s films have always boasted of strong musical scores (think ‘Ajnabee’, ‘Race’). Music director Pritam, once a hit machine, does a poor job in ‘Players’, though. ‘Jis Jagah Pe Khatam’ (sung with great gusto by Neeraj Shridhar and Mauli Dave) is the sole hummable track in the film. The absence of a real blockbuster song had hurt the promotional campaigns for the movie too. Background score, by Sandeep Shirodkar, is passable.

‘Players’ is a film that ranks high on the style quotient. The technical aspects of the movie are at par with the best in the country and there are enough surprises and twists in the storyline to keep you mildly interested throughout the movie. However, inconsistent performances, shoddy screenplay, weak musical score and an unnecessarily drawn-out second half (the film lasts all of 20 reels!) make ‘Players’ just another routine Bollywood thriller.

The biggest heist that ‘Players’ manages to achieve? It actually botches up the seemingly foolproof storyline of ‘The Italian Job’! 

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