Bikram and Bala, the outlaw heroes of “Gunday,” are all hair spray, body oil and swagger. Their chests – no shirts can contain them – glisten, and their muscles bulge as they grimace and run in slow motion. As for their personalities, it takes an hour or so before you discern, or even care, which one is which: Bikram (Ranveer Singh) is shorter, and his hair does more tricks; Bala (Arjun Kapoor) has a temper.
That they are more like action figures than people doesn’t really matter. “Gunday,” although it begins in a refugee camp in Bangladesh in 1971 (where the young Bikram and Bala bond), and although it takes some swipes at The System (as nearly all Bollywood movies do), is about fights and songs and running from the law.
Still, it also has drama and romance. And for those, it gets some much-needed spark from two secondary characters, as vivid as Bikram and Bala are dim.
Having become the bandit kings of Calcutta, Bikram and Bala are so close that they share a bed as well as adventures. Then into the picture – or, more precisely, into the bathroom where they stand side by side marveling at their first Western-style urinals – strides a cabaret dancer, played by Priyanka Chopra. Ka-boom. They fall for her and fall out.
The other complicating factor is the supercop (Irrfan Khan) summoned to Calcutta to bring the pair to justice.
Khan radiates a quiet cool that makes the puffed-up outlaws seem even more cartoonish. (Best moment: He buttons one guy’s shirt.) And Chopra, who now seems poised for U.S. success as a Guess Jeans model and a singer, holds the screen like an old-fashioned movie star. (Ava Gardner comes to mind.)
“Gunday,” directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, may be preposterous, but it’s rarely dull. And when Khan and Chopra are on screen it’s something more. It’s downright enjoyable.
Written and directed by Ali Abbas Zafar; director of photography, Aseem Mishra; edited by Rameshwar S. Bhagat; music by Sohail Sen; production design by Rajat Poddar; costumes by Subarna Rai Chaudhuri; produced by Aditya Chopra; released by Yash Raj Films. In Hindi, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 26 minutes. This film is not rated.
With: Ranveer Singh (Bikram), Arjun Kapoor (Bala), Irrfan Khan (Satya) and Priyanka Chopra (Nandita).