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PLAYERS: Abbas Mustan make a complete hash of a Hollywood classic

Bollywood director duo Abbas and Mustan Burmawala certainly share numerous skills between them, most notably rehashing and ‘Indianizing’ Hollywood movies.  But it surely must take a very special kind of skill to take a legendary film with a classic heist and ruin it totally and absolutely for there can be not a trace of a doubt that this is what Abbas Mustan have managed to do with the year’s first release.  ‘Players’, an official remake of the legendary Michael Caine-starrer The Italian Job, has all the requisite ingredients for a mildly entertaining if not soul stirring 3 hours; from Abhishek Bachchan to Bipasha Basu and some of the brightest young talent in Bollywood, staggeringly picturesque locations, an excellent storyline and enough tech to make Bill Gates blush.  But how Abbas-Mustan rip contrived to take all of these first class elements and make a total mess of it is staggering and beyond comprehension.  
Mere weeks before he is released, career criminal Victor (Vinod Khanna) – quite unthinkably – is planning the world’s biggest robbery.  He enlists the help of Charlie Mascarenhas (Abhishek Bachchan) to put together a team of experts to pull off the heist; specifically to rob a train full of gold traveling from Russia to Romania.  There’s the illusionist Ronnie (Bobby Deol), Spider the appropriately named hacker (Neil Mukesh), explosives expert Bilal (Sikander Kher) and of course the requisite hot totty in the shape of the ever delectable Bipasha Basu playing the role of Rhea, an expert with anything on wheels.  So this team of slick operators press a few buttons, get chased through gridlocked streets, pull off some outlandish stunts and go home with the shiny stuff.  Job done.  Right?  Well, staggeringly wrong.  
Not content with sticking to this tried and tested storyline, Abbas Mastan throw in numerous increasingly ridiculous twists and subplots into the mix; for instance, the robbery is not merely motivated by greed but to also as a way of raising money for an orphanage.  The most annoying subplot of them all though is that when one of the team runs off with the horde of gold, the movie swiftly changes tack and becomes a revenge drama.  
The acting is uniformly horrendous.  Perhaps with the new arrival in his life Abhishek Bachchan cannot focus enough but the man who put in such a feral performance in last year’s Raavan is a near mute here.  Whilst it is perhaps a touch unfair to expect something of Michael Caine’s charisma, Abhishek is devoid of even a smidgen of menace or swagger.  What’s more he shares absolutely no chemistry with the two female leads. Bipasha, whilst still able to carry off a bikini better than any other actress, merely rehashes the same one-dimensional mysterious-dark-beauty routine yet again.  Neil Mukesh and Boby Deol are wooden and have none of the charm or playfulness that their roles require.  The worst though is Sonam Kapoor who inexplicably turns up as Victor’s daughter to help Charlie exact revenge in the convoluted second half of the film.  She parades around in a string of outfits is just a walking advertisement.  Speaking of advertising, the film itself feels like an extended advertisement itself for everything from Amul Butter and Kissan Jams to Samsung Smartphones.  
The incredibly locations – from New Zealand to remote Siberia – add some redemption to this muddle of a movie but then that has more to do with Mother Nature than any imagination on the part of the filmmakers.  But the wonder of the white tundra cannot make up for the wooden acting, banal dialogue, idiotic twists and the unending stream of toe-curling cliches.
‘Players’ is a staggering disappointment and doesn’t bode well for Bollywood in 2012.
–    Poonam Joshi

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