• Release Date: 13/01/2023
  • Cast: Anshuman Jha, Riddhi Dogra, Paresh Pahuja
  • Director: Victor Mukherjee
  • Written By: Alok Sharma

Arjun (Anshuman Jha) is a courier delivery agent who teaches young kids martial arts, takes care of local stray dogs, and as is made apparent within the first few minutes of the film — beats up bad people at night dressed as a masked vigilante. He is recognizable only by his jaw-shattering left hook and sense of dressing up in hoodies and masks. Things take an interesting turn for Arjun when his dear dog “Shonku” goes missing and his search leads Arjun to Aryan (Paresh Pahuja), a psychotic businessman who deals in illegal high-value animals, selling dog meat to restaurants to make up for a shortage of mutton, peddling narcotics, etc. Helping Arjun in his cause is an honest and driven cop, Akshara (Riddhi Dogra), who is hellbent on capturing the masked vigilante and putting him behind bars.

Fantastic beginning: –

Lakadbaggha gets off to a flying start. The first 15-20 minutes of the film are absolutely investing and beautiful to look at. The first action sequence is the best in the film and instils a belief that the rest of the action in the film will be just as good. The way victor Mukherjee captures the lanes and the mood of Kolkata at night was wonderful. I loved how the first sequence builds up into a full-blown fight and how the protagonist tries his best to avoid the altercation but, in the end, gives in to it with a no holds barred attitude. That is what makes this sequence that much more fun. Following this, the story remains consistent and we are waiting for the next big twist in the tale. The introduction of Akshara and the gradual development of her friendship with Arjun are also very well done. I was invested in their performances so much that it diverted my attention from the fact that nothing was happening in the film for a very long time.

Anshuman Jha’s unconventional look and undeniable prowess as the awkward protagonist: –

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Anshuman Jha is one of the two biggest positives of the film. He looks so different from what a hero in a Bollywood film is supposed to look like that he instantaneously captured my attention just by looking at how he does. It was a matter of minutes before I realized how well he was enacting the character and then I started to notice the nuances and the quality of the performance that he brought to the table. He plays a character that is very different from what we are used to in these pretentious times and he does so with subtility and aplomb. This was one of the biggest defining aspects of his performance and it made his essay a lot more enjoyable.

Anshuman knows how to throw a punch and his physical build resembles a martial artist closely. I thoroughly enjoyed how he conducted himself in the action sequences. Even though he was wearing a mask all the way through, you could tell that it was he who was pulling off the stunts. With him doing the stunts himself, the director could shoot the film and edit the action sequences in a certain way that let the audience enjoy the action in its organic beauty and form.  

Riddhi Dogra’s stellar act and wonderful chemistry with Anshuman Jha: –

Riddhi Dogra is a screen stealer and the second biggest positive of the film. Every time she is on screen, she practically transfixed my attention to her performance. She plays a character who has had a torrid past and is dealing with a recent personal tragedy. While she shuns the fact that it was a tragedy, it is apparent from her mannerisms that she is looking for meaningful connections. Dogra is able to bring out the nuances of these aspects of the character and also beautifully works it into her interactions with Anshuman’s Arjun. The camaraderie between the two works so wonderfully because of the easy nature of the interactions. Akshara is enamoured by Arjun’s outlook on things and the world and it shows in her performance. The development of their friendship takes up a lot of screen time but never feels boring or preachy. Instead, these are the warmest and most rewarding portions of this film.

Anshuman looks like the commonest of the common man and Riddhi, on the other hand, looks resplendent, stunning, and in many sequences a picture of angelic beauty. To see someone like her gradually falling for someone like Arjun was not just interesting but subconsciously rewarding as it reiterated the power of true connections and how conversations are the best relationship builders in the world. The case here is even more interesting since both the characters are so radically different. It is sufficient to say that these were some of the most interesting portions of this film and it wouldn’t have been the same had it not been for the sparkling performance of Riddhi Dogra and her organic chemistry with Anshuman.

The film loses its way in its flawed storytelling: –

Having said all the good things about the film, I have to admit that the storytelling of it falters right after the initial buildup is complete. Interestingly, the film settles into a strange lethargic zone where nothing of substance happens. The characters are never pushing the narrative forward nor are the narrative creating any major challenges for the characters to react to. The introduction of Akshara makes it clear that she is hot on the heels of the vigilante, Arjun but after two initial dialogues, she literally shows no signs of proactivity or any real effort to nab the vigilante. Instead, she is busy in her camaraderie with Arjun which feels good but is ultimately pointless to the plot and the film.

Logic and reason go for a toss and there are too many conducive coincidences: –

The film’s logic and reasoning go for a toss from time to time; Especially in the climax. The climax felt the most underwhelming and that brought down the overall impact of the film immensely. I cannot get it out of my mind that the villains were standing right in the lair of Arjun and they never cared to go inside and see if what they were looking for was in there or not. They were instead trying to beat it out of him when what they were looking for was right there in that very building. How the true identity of Arjun is revealed and how Akshara learns of it was also very underwhelming. In the end, Akshara is shown to have had a change of heart. Why this happens and what influenced her is never made clear. The editing feels choppy in many junctures where the story is transitioning from one point in the story to another.

Caricaturish antagonist who leaves no impact:-

The primary antagonist of the film is overtly caricaturish and he does nothing to extract any genuine fear from the audience. He has lost something valuable that Arjun has and he needs to get it back. Again, he shows very little craze or drives to get this extremely important item back. Instead, he is busy with his usual business, holding dog shows, arranging dinners etc. Why isn’t he going all guns blazing after what he has lost? This question is never answered. The character is laden with all the done-to-death tropes including an oriental female henchman that serves no genuine purpose. Paresh Pahuja’s performance is extremely one-dimensional and brings nothing new to the table. I will also hold the director and the writer responsible for this lacking. They should have known better and created a more interesting antagonist.

Action choreography is proficient but still leaves a lot to be desired: –

While the action choreography is good, it does leave a lot to be desired. After the initial flair, I was expecting the action of the film to get better and better with every subsequent fight but that never happens. The fights keep getting shorter, clumsier and less physical and since there is very little emotional weight behind the conflicts, the impact is completely diluted. The characters are never in any serious danger and there are practically no thrills associated with the predicaments. The wait between action sequences is also so long that the lack of punch in them feels even more pronounced and on your face.    

Final thoughts: – Lakadbaggha had the potential to be a smashing martial arts spectacle. It had the right leading pair and their chemistry was stunning. Sadly, lacklustre writing, poor direction and an utter lack of sense of urgency destroyed any potential that the film had and turned it into a mediocre and dull experience. The film is too long and has very little happening for large chunks of the narrative. A few rewrites and some strong directive choices would have made this one of the best films of the year. Sadly! That is not the case.

The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not in any way or form reflect EastMojo’s position.

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