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Post Khiladi and Baazigar, Abbas-Mustan rightfully earned the tag of being the undisputed Badshaahs of Thrillers. They made a series of films thereafter -- of varied genres -- but every time they attempted a thriller, the comparisons with Khiladi and Baazigar were inevitable. That's because Abbas-Mustan couldn"t outdo these two films ever.
The director duo's latest offering Race, which packs glitz, glam and style with A-listers [on and off screen], carries the baggage of tremendous expectations. The stars, the stunning locales, the breath-taking visuals, the mesmeric songs, the electrifying chase, the chic styling -- everything you see on screen resembles an international flick.
But the million dollar question is, does it live up to the humungous expectations? Does it have its heart in the right place? Thankfully, it does!
Race is Abbas-Mustan's most accomplished work, after Baazigar. Any thriller works if and only if the story has the edge-of-the-seat moments and which catches you unawares as the reels unfold. Race has that quality. The story moves in a serpentine manner, there"s a twist every fifteen minutes and it's impossible to guess what the culmination would be.
In a nutshell, Race is a first-rate product all the way. It's not just style, but there's substance as well. It has the merits to get catapulted to the Bests of 2008, when you reflect on the year. Bravo!
Ranvir [Saif Ali Khan] and Rajiv [Akshaye Khanna] are step-brothers who own a huge stud farm in Durban, South Africa. They breed horses on their huge ranch house and are also the biggest bookies in the horse racing circuit. Ranvir, the elder of the two, is known to be a very shrewd man. He is very aggressive and is always on the move. Rajiv, on the other hand, is very laidback and is also a chronic alcoholic.
Sophia [Katrina Kaif] is Ranvir's personal secretary. She adores her boss and loves him. Ranvir is totally unaware of her feeling and regards her adoration as her efficiency. Sonia [Bipasha Basu] is an upcoming Indian ramp model in Durban.
Sonia loves Ranvir, but through a twist of fate gets married to Rajiv. When she discovers that Rajiv is a chronic alcoholic, her world is shattered. Ranvir too is disturbed as he has sacrificed his love for his younger brother because Rajiv had promised him that if he gets married to Sonia, he will leave alcohol forever.
After marriage, Rajiv breaks his promise and the story starts getting complicated. In a weak moment, Ranvir and Sonia come very close to each other and an affair starts between the younger brother's wife and the elder brother. When the younger brother starts suspecting his wife, all hell breaks loose.
A murder is committed, a contract killing is issued, double crossings become the order of the day… A sharp-tongued investigative officer R.D. [Anil Kapoor] starts an investigation with his brainless assistant Mini [Sameera Reddy].
Director duo Abbas-Mustan are in complete command this time around. Everything is so well synchronized that the end result leaves you awe-struck. The 2 + hours of your precious life that you've spent on this film are absolutely worth your while. In 36 China Town and Naqaab specifically, one disagreed with the climax. But the penultimate reels of Race are foolproof.
Abbas-Mustan get it right this time. Right from the choice of subject, to the choice of actors, to the thrilling moments, music and locales, this thrill-a-minute saga works big time. The game of one-upmanship indulged by the two brothers is electrifying and easily the hallmark of the enterprise.
Writer Shiraz Ahmed's screenplay has several moments that merit a mention. The best part is, the writing is full of energy and surprises, not once does it take the been-there-seen-that route. It would be foolhardy to single out a few sequences since the film gathers speed from its inception itself. One of its USPs is that every character is out to double cross the other, each character has grey shades and the dangerous games they indulge in make it an exhilarating cinematic experience.
Ravi Yadav's cinematography is topnotch. The stunning locales of Durban, Dubai and India are captured lucidly by the DoP. But, most importantly, the movement of the camera at several places deserves the highest praise. Note the very start of the film [the aerial view, right till the gruesome accident] or the car chase in the climax [never seen before on the Hindi screen], the camerawork is stunning.
Pritam's music rocks. Generally, in most thrillers, the music takes a backseat, but not here. 'Allah Duhai Hai' [foot-tapping], 'Pehli Nazar Mein' [with soulful rendition by Atif Aslam], 'Touch Me' [very saucy] and 'Sexy Lady' [the new track; trendy] are terrific compositions all and their filming and choreography are masterly. The fact that the yuppie crowd has taken to the songs in a big way, says it all. The Race at the start and the chase in the climax [Allan Amin] are fantastic. You haven't witnessed something like this ever before on the Hindi screen, that's for sure! Hussain Burmawala's editing is razor-sharp. It's one of the best edited works!
Dialogues [Anuraag Prapanna, Jitendra Parmar] are excellent. Styling [Anaita Shroff Adajania] is superb. Background score [Salim-Sulaiman] has the international feel. Choreography [Bosco-Caesar and Ganesh Acharya] is top class.
Every actor in Race puts his/her best foot forward. Saif has been coming up with sparkling portrayals and films like Kal Ho Naa Ho, Ek Hasina Thi, Hum Tum, Salaam | Namaste, Omkara and Eklavya – the royal guard portrayed the actor's acting skills to the fullest. Now add Race to his illustrious repertoire. He's marvelous all through and the bearded look suits him very much.
Akshaye is so perfect. To carry off a difficult character like this is a Herculean task and the supremely talented actor handles it with aplomb. He's like a chameleon; he slips into various roles with remarkable ease. But the fact cannot be denied that Abbas-Mustan bring out the best in Akshaye. Watch his body of work and you'd agree that Akshaye's performances in the director duo's films have always stood out.
Anil Kapoor comes at the interval point, but takes charge in the post-interval portions. With such serious characters in the film, Anil's role comes as a big relief. Sure, the viewers may find some of his dialogues crass, but the masses will take to his performance in a big way.
Bipasha looks stunning and delivers her best work so far. She's superb. Katrina is a complete surprise. The actress looks gorgeous, but most importantly, her character gives her ample opportunity to shine in the latter half. Sameera excels as the dumb girl. Actually, it's a tough job and she does it well. Johny Lever is there for one sequence and his role is aimed at the hoi polloi.
On the whole, Race is a superb entertainer all the way. It's not just style, it has substance as well. At the box-office, the tremendous hype coupled with the holidays in the opening week as well as the extensive release will ensure huge numbers in the initial week. But, most importantly, the film has legs to enjoy a spirited run at the box-office. Smash Hit!