If you search online for images of Sunny Deol, most of the results show a mild-looking, if bulked-up, guy--one whose disposition seems to match his name. Is that what "Sunny Deol" means to most Indian film fans? To me, a "Sunny Deol movie" involves screams of rage and beatings and mayhem and bulging bloodshot eyes, but maybe I just haven't seen enough Sunny Deol movies.
Sunny as I know him
No, I take that back. I'm pretty sure I've seen more than enough Sunny Deol movies. And here's another one, Salaakhen ("Bars"--the jail kind, not the drinking-game kind) from director Guddu Dhanoa. Clearly, the filmmaker's real goal was to make a movie where a guy with anger issues goes on multiple rampages and kills a whole bunch of people in exotic ways. But when he pitched this film, describing how cool the explosions would look, he must have gotten some resistance. So instead the angry guy must have a backstory; he must have motivation, so we can root for him to do more killing and feel that the bad people are getting what they deserve, even if what they get is to be used as battering rams/hood ornaments on runaway buses or to fulfill whatever other scenario the most sadistic junior scriptwriter on the project can invent. We have to care about Sunny's problems.
So this Sunny Deol movie has a frame of rage and rampage enclosing other two other stories--one a tale of a noble fight against corruption, and the other a romance, complete with music and dancing. It's like three movies instead of just one. And the question now is, which Salaakhen will you hate most?
Your options are these:
(a) The part with Anupam Kher as a Masterji so incorruptibly honest that he publicly accuses a local bigwig—Amrish Puri, as if you had to ask—of pulling strings to keep his rapist-murderer son out of jail. The son has a sneer and a flowing mane of hair and a vest with no shirt underneath to display his tree-trunk biceps. Amrish Puri has those scary eyes and a penchant for kidnapping and slaughtering people who oppose him in real-estate deals. Anupam Kher, who witnessed the crime, has only a worried wife (Farida Jalal) and the courage of his convictions. This courage is almost enough to take down the whole corrupt system. But the police, who are of course in Amrish Puri’s pocket, start gaslighting the witness, staging duplicate abductions, insisting on hours of questioning at the police station, driving the witness home backwards while claiming nothing is amiss (yes, really!). By the time Masterji is facing the fiendish lawyer who’s twisting his words on the witness stand, the poor man is so confused that he grabs the court officer's gun and shoots himself in the head. (I’ve been confused many times in my life, but never suicidally confused. I suppose I should be grateful yet again that I don’t have access to firearms.)
Lou hates spunk too.
(b) The love story between Sunny Deol--as the son of mild-mannered Anupam and gentle Farida--and Raveena Tandon, as a girl with a dream that someday she’ll fall in love with a man who accidentally bumps into her and then stares into her eyes as he stops her from falling down. Guess what happens. Did I mention that she has spunk? I hate spunk.
(summary of film climax)
(c) The part that was the whole point of making the movie, with Sunny wreaking vengeance on everyone connected with his father’s death and also on a fair number of innocent bystanders. There’s a courtroom scene in which an enraged Sunny kills the lawyer who has just successfully defended him on charges of murdering four people (apparently the innocent bystanders didn’t add to the body count). Then Sunny flashbacks his sad story to a panel of experts. By the time he’s wrapping up the story, we're seeing a lot of cars spinning through the air in slow motion, buses hitting transformers, and exploding gas stations. People are stabbed, machine-gunned, defenestrated*, and--I assume--hit by pieces of flying cars and buses. Then the experts give Sunny a light sentence because he was merely bringing about Justice, which causes him to become enraged again, kind of like the enraged pantomime Princess Margaret in the classic Python sketch. Pang! Right in the toast!
It's OK to vote for (d), all of the above.
*On the other hand, “defenestration” is just the best word.