Emraan Hashmi said in a recent interview that Raja Natwarlal is a family film with kisses. He is right. He kisses his heroine, Humaima only thrice. These are short, sweet kisses; far removed from the passionate sizzling lip locks he is known for. Nevertheless, Emraan proves he is still a king and prince charming combined when it comes to what he does best.
Now that’s out of the way, one can focus on Emraan as Raja Natwarlal, the conman in the film. He is named after Mithilesh Kumar Srivastava, the legendary Natwarlal, who had ‘sold’ the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Rashtrapati Bhavan and an entire parliament.
Cast well by Jannat director, Kunal Deshmukh, Emraan plays Raja, a small time street-smartcrook in love with a dance bar girl (Pakistani actor, Humaima Malik). When he pull off a heist, his collar up action is defined by a crude underwear tug; a mannerism quickly forgotten in the rest of the film. Raja’s partner in crime is an older and genial big brother figure, Raghav (Deepak Tijori).
They cook up their small con jobs on Raghav’s dining table while loving wife (Prachi Shah) serves food and a small son studies diligently. Raja’s greed for a bigger heist costs Raghav his life. Raja’s own life is in danger. The money they had stolen, belongs to a Cape Town based deadly don and cricket fanatic, Vardha Yadav (Kay Kay Menon). In a bid to take revenge over Raghav’s death, Raja turns to ex-conman from Dharamshala, Yogi (Paresh Rawal). Yogi who has a personal axe to grind, decides to mentor Raja into becoming a king conmaster, bigger than the real Natwarlal.
Here both the story and the pace falter. A lengthy portion is taken up by Yogi’s gyaan(making a cigarette roll on its own) and his personal and unconvincing subplot. This takes away from Raja’s own challenges and doesn’t quite bring out the king-size hero he is supposed to be.
With Vardha’s entry, the second half makes up for the slow beginning. Yogi’s big idea is to sell an entire fake cricket team worth Rs 100 crore to Vardha. A parallel track involving a couple of corrupt policemen and Vardha’s hitman in pursuit of Raja, manage to create some tension. Some hasty screenplay moves though, lead to location switches between Cape Town and Mumbai appear like hopping between coffee shops in the same lane.
The last 20 minutes, shot in slick and smooth sequences, involving a crew of fake pest control team and false auctions, pack in the real entertainment punch. Kay Kay’s eventual act during the climax have shades of Manoj Bajpai’s mad and memorable performance in Special 26.You wish there were more humorous moments like Kay Kay’s confusion over Yogi’s nationality.
Paresh Rawal has not just lost weight but also some of his earlier charisma. Occasionally, one glimpses a sharp familiar glint in his eyes. Humaima as Emraan’s lady love tries hard but lacks sex appeal and screen presence. Emraan’s mainstay in his previous films, the music, also fails to lend either melody or tempo. Deepak Tijori and Prachi Shah are cast well as a pleasant couple you end up sympathizing with.
Raja Natwarlal like its title, could have been a king-size con film. But the otherwise talented pawn sized Emraan’s sincerity along with decent direction by Deshmukh, makes the film a fun watch.