Samrat Tilakdhari aka STD (Rajeev Khandelwal) is our Desi Sherlock Holmes who likes to try his hands upon challenging cases only in company of his Desi Dr. Watson – Chakradhar aka CD (Gopal Dutt). He gets a challenging assignment through Shimla based Dimpy (Madalsa Sharma) who informs him that the garden of his family house has dried up without an apparent reason and her father (Girish Karnad) is quite depressed and frightened after the death of their gardener who had rendered a combination of destruction to the garden when expelled from service by her father. However the real challenge appears in this assignment only upon our hero’s arrival at the venue in Shimla which is a palatial house made in the style of the British times when killings start in the extended family residing there. As expected, our hero finally solves this whodunit which is the story of Hindi movie – Samrat & Co (2014).
The prestigious Rajshri banner of the Barjatya family has made this movie, taking a diversion from the family dramas they are famous for. However this whodunit also contains a family drama which is behind the mysterious happenings and killings. Director Kaushik Ghatak had earlier directed Ek Vivah Aisa Bhi (2008) for the Barjatyas which was nothing but another version of Rajshri’s old hit Tapasya (1976). This time, he seems to have read many Sherlock Holmes stories penned by Arthur Conan Doyle and also some Agatha Christie novels before writing the script of this movie which is a mix-masala of a Sherlock Holmes venture and a Hercule Poirot venture with some James Bondish stunts appearing at places. It does not bore but a writer-director skilled in making such movies would have presented a much better movie made on this story.
The traditional murder mystery has been spread pretty well on the screen with ample attention to the fine details of the characters, their relationships and their activities. However in his bid to present his detective hero as the legendary Sherlock Holmes, too much detailing has been poured into his dialogs which becomes irksome after a point. But the director was not satisfied with the Sherlock Holmes persona of his hero, so he has committed the blunder of rendering a touch of James Bond also by showing him doing stunts which is superfluous.
The narrative would have been taut and free-flowing without the two songs unnecessarily inserted into the movie. Though I liked the second (romantic) song, it didn’t stay with me after the movie was over. And the first song which is a party song is highly irritating because of the disgusting appearance of ‘elephantine’ Ganesh Acharya dancing with a young girl.
Kaushik Ghatak as a script-writer has done well by linking everything to everything else without leaving any loose ends wanting to be tied up when the story ends but he has introduced unnecessary characters also. The character of Shanti (Pooja Gupta) who presents a parody of Basanti of Sholay is one such character only. Though I laughed at a few places but it was because of the hero and not the humorous characters and situations that the director has tried to force into the narrative.
Unlike many recent Bollywood movies, one half of the movie is not superior or inferior to the other one. The suspense-filled story flows equally well in both the halves and the intermission has been brought at the correct spot.
Dialog-writer could not write quality one-liners for the hero. The one-liners are aplenty for him in the script but they fail to rise above the ordinary. He terms the heroine (Madalsa Sharma) at a place – ‘Mistress in Distress’. God only knows what it means because I have heard and read about ‘Damsel in Distress’ only.
Rajshri banner has switched to lavishness from simplicity under the reign of Sooraj Barjatya. However I am highly surprised to see that the shooting has not been done in the real locations of Shimla (or at least some other hill station). The animation and artificiality is so vivid that it appears to be a stain in the name of the great Rajshri banner.
There are two USPs of this movie. The first one is – it’s a neat and clean movie. Nowadays it has become a rarity to come across neat and clean entertainers from Bollywood. Rajshri banner had earned a repute of presenting simple but very sweet movies sans any vulgarity during the sixties, the seventies and the early eighties. This movie is devoid of any vulgarity and definitely a movie which can be watched with one’s family.
The second one is Rajeev Khandelwal, the hero of this movie wearing a persona of Sherlock Holmes but acting at places in Hercule Poirot style also. Rajeev is a talented actor and a perfect hero material for Bollywood movies. In this movie, he has got very limited range of expressions because of the role being that of a detective, still he impresses. Given a right break, he can emerge as the latest heartthrob of young Indian females. He is one reason, you keep on watching this movie despite its apparent flaws.
Other than Rajeev, Gopal Dutt as his sidekick has also done a good job. All others including the heroine – Madalsa Sharma, are strictly okay. However it’s a great pleasure to see highly talented and charming actor Priyanshu Chatterjee in a movie after a long hiatus.
All in all, the trouble with this old-fashioned whodunit is its mediocrity. It could have been a much superior mystery movie in the hands of an able director. All the same, it’s not a bad movie. It’s a decent one time watch but strictly for the mystery fans.
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