The ApunKaChoice movie review of Raja Natwarlal. The protagonist in any good con movie keeps the cards close to his chest even though his quarry and the audience feel the best hand has been played. The ruses that writers implant must escape our notice only to necessitate a revisiting in the end, to marvel at the smarts and the seamless craft with which the red herrings were sneaked in. Raja Natwarlal, though not a brilliant con movie, does throw up some such interesting tricks to our surprise.
Emraan Hashmi plays Raja, a street-smart crook gifted with a sleight of hand to fleece the hoi polloi. Like anyone who takes his profession seriously, he wants to climb up the ladder and pull off a ‘lamba haath’ (big score) and use the booty to rescue his ladylove Ziya (Humaima Malick) from the undignified life of a bar dancer. But things go wrong. Raja’s wingman Raghav (Deepak Tijori) is killed. Raja goes into hiding but plans to exact revenge from Vardha Yadav (Kay Kay Menon), an outlawed business tycoon based in Cape Town, and the man behind Raghav’s death. To pull off this big score, Raja enlists the help of a retired conman Yogi (Paresh Rawal), who comes up with a clever plan to dupe Vardha Yadav of thousands of crores. But things go wrong once again and Raja finds himself in the mess of his own creation.
Director Kunal Deshmukh tells the story at a brisk pace but throws in too many mediocre songs (watch one here). Some of the twists and turns that pop up in the story by Parveez Shaikh pass for smart touches, but by and large Raja Natwarlal cruises on a predictable path that gets murkier with every reel. The characters behave smarter than what their subsequent actions would have us believe.
It’s the performances by Kay Kay Menon and Paresh Rawal that pull the film out of the hole it digs for itself. Kay Kay is simply stupendous as the suave Mr. Moneybags with a temperament to fear. In one scene, his Vardha Yadav clobbers a man with an antique cricket bat that he holds so dear. Paresh Rawal plays the most unlikely guru with a sharp brain and firm equanimity.
Emraan Hashmi isn’t shadowed by the two aforesaid greats, but his street-smart hustler act is not unlike what we’ve seen him do previously. Pakistani actress Humaima Malick’s debut act in Bollywood is at best rusty. Pity is to see an actor like Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub wasted in a two-bit role as Kay Kay Menon’s hitman. In an equally brief role, Sumit Nijhwan makes you sit up and take note of his corrupt, leering cop.
Raja Natwarlal is an engaging watch, despite shoddy direction, boring songs and jerks in continuity. It may not be as cerebral as some con flicks from Hollywood, but it does have the smarts to keep you hooked.