Once in a while comes a director who uses age-old lines like “ek tha Raja, ek thi Rani..” and weaves anything but a fairytale. More like a witch tale. So potent in its pulp fiction treatment that it grips and holds and chokes though overkills at times.
When writer/director, Tigmanshu ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ Dhulia used the famous characters of Abrar Alvi’s classic, “Sahib, Biwi aur Ghulam” and remoulded them to a contemporary and racy thriller love triangle in his first remake, Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster, he had left behind homage halfway and moved on to an engrossing thriller.
With the sequel, Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster Returns, Dhulia drops the original completely and rewrites a powerful script ( story co-written by Kamal Pandey) so dark that you don’t know which character is capable of the darkest side. There are no heroes here. Only villains who are heroic in love.
Take the character of Biwi (Mahie Gill) first. She used to be the queen of tragedy and weepiest of doormats who turned to alcohol not to drown her sorrows but to woo her husband in ‘Saheb, Bibi Aur Ghulam’. Now Dhulia’s ‘biwi’ is also an alcoholic. But she is so enticing that it seems that even the bottle is seduced and moved by her longing. She is no helpless wife who will cry on the ‘Ghulam’ shoulders. Instead, she will use his muscular shoulders to aim from. She will also bed him. She can be the picture of pathos when she helplessly sits in her MLA office chair in UP hinterland and asks, “yeh PIL kya hai”.But determined by love or rather hatred mixed with unrequited love, her politics will put an entire bunch of ministers to shame.
The ghulam/gangster(Irrfan) here, aptly nicknamed “maukatarian” in the first remake, of course adores her and worships her overfilled glass as well as the gun.Now,in the sequel, he is like the double barrel himself. He is no ghulam or a mere gangster. He is “Raja bhaiya”,the grandson of royal ancestors whose downfall was caused by Saheb’s ancestors. He is willing to be more than a “mard” and a “shayar” to the Biwi to regain his lost royalty. Not because he is Biwi’s lover. But because he is a lover who will kill for his secret betrothed.
Saheb (Jimmy Shergill)is the most charismatic of all. He is both the cause and the result of Biwi’s tragic angst and pain. He loves guns. He also loves his royalty. For which he will play politics more lethal than the gun. He loves the power of ruling even if it is through his much-hated Biwi- a MLA on paper. But when he falls in love, he is willing to shoot with a camera too, to win over the fair princess.
The “Rajkumari”(Soha Ali) is the sweet and innocent pawn thrown into a broken down palace where “ har rishtey ke piche ek saazish hai”. Her transformation reflected in the last shot and dialogue is as eerie as the skeleton found buried in the debris of love’s tragedy.
And so the game of love and politics continue in this thriller saga sequel. Saheb spends time recovering from his wheelchair ridden body and broken heart by the biwi’s previous lustful liaison. He decides to remarry when he sets eyes on the pretty princess’ pictures. The princess is in love with “Gangster” Raja Bhaiya who gets together with Biwi to hatch the plot of Saheb’s downfall. The drama unfolds and takes the plot into territory deadlier than the jungle. Every person continues to change sides. A remarkable drama of love and betrayal ensues in such an unpredictable way that honesty merges with dishonesty, love switches sides yet stays true to love.
Just like the characters, every actor outmatches the other, right from Jimmy Shergill in his royal nastiness to Mahie Gill’s alcoholic walk and manipulative moves to Irrfan’s daredevil love to Soha Ali’s innocent charm. Despite the dominating cast, Rajeev Gupta as a politician stands out, particularly in a hilarious exchange with Irrfan concerning his ‘ sensitive tomato’ image and the blue film on his laptop.
The lyrics “Bas Chal kapat parpanch hai” by Kausar Munir matches the movie’s theme though the music by Sandeep Chowta does not add much.
Sahib , Biwi aur Gangster Returns is a potent remix of Shakespearan tragedy and pulp thriller.
“Ek tha Raja, ek thi Rani..” will haunt for a while.