– Mani Prabhu

Twenty years since John Woo had Travolta and Cage subvert the routine cat-and-mouse game with that staggering reversal of the hero-villain sensibilities, Lakshman comes up with Bogan that gives the premise an indigenous twist.  The outrageous log-line might initially jolt the unfamiliar viewer into seeing a masterstroke of sorts, but then, a desi-tribute to the delicious intrigue of Face/Off was going begging for almost a decade now.

And understandably so. Who would indeed resist the idea of two arch-enemies battling out each other by literally playing each other! Lakshman’s version eventually ends up nowhere near the Hollywood film in terms of character delineation, or in terms of indulgent fun, but it keeps toying with the counterpoint in fairish ways to keep us watching. The film-maker appears lost in many an instance, more so in the last act, but he never really frustrates us with obvious incompetence.

That said, the portions, which further the conflict that we are looking at someone who is foreign to his own body, needed to be more inventive. The conspiracy playing inside our heads required more emotional pay-offs.  This is not to say that there are none, and the writing is definitely not lazy, but given the endless potential of the subject matter at hand, aren’t these the things that set apart a real-juicy entertainer from a not-so-bad one?

The fact that you have Arvind Swamy in powerplay-Sehwag-mode at one end helps. To ignore the glitches. To give in to the preposterousness. To shrug off the feeling that his partner, Jayam Ravi, is frequently on pinch-hitter-Zaheer-Khan-mode, who wants to keep the strike. The screen-writing gimmick demanded stars (and not just actors) who could slip into one another and their body languages, without letting us ponder on the unlikeliness of the conceit. And unlike Travolta and Cage, Jayam Ravi is no match to the gloriously-in-form Arvind. And it shows.

But, even if you were to forgive all these, it’s impossible to overlook Lakshman’s idea of a thirty-minute-long cutesy romance involving Hansika, who incidentally is in Best-Actor-Female-Academy-award-mode. She pouts, slanders and garbles with the flashy earnestness of having bagged the role of her lifetime. I am not grudging her the brownie points for intent, but the effect it has on-screen quickly escalates to a point where you involuntary grope for the non-existent remote.

The film, thus, could have easily been 40 minutes shorter and way crisper, had Lakshman chosen not to tip his hat to the supposed mainstream indispensables… more so, when he has so much to narrate inside of his dramatic conflict. Why introduce your cop with a lungi dance when you can see that it adds nothing but flab to your narrative? What is the need to timidly tick off audience boxes, when you have managed to figure out a plot with decent potential – and cast Arvind Swamy for a coup?

How many more times should we watch an asylum-inmate-procedural of the female lead before we are shown the actual movie? Seriously.