Crack open the Bolly

Ryan Gilbey reviews the latest crop of Indian blockbusters

Murder 2 (15)
dir: Mohit Suri

Bbuddah . . . Hoga Tera Baap (15)
dir: Puri Jagannadh

Anglocentric audiences may be surprised to learn that not everyone considers the final Harry Potter to be the big sequel of the month. Sitting down to watch the Bollywood thriller Murder 2, I was concerned that I hadn't seen the 2004 original, Murder, but then there's no evidence that the film-makers have either. Despite sharing a producer and a star, Murder 2 is not strictly a sequel at all. While Murder was inspired by the US romantic drama Unfaithful (2002), the follow-up is a serial-killer movie with erotic pretensions. There's every chance that Murder 3, should it arrive, will be a police procedural set on Mars, or a western on ice.

The one returning actor from Murder, Emraan Hashmi, doesn't even play the same character. This time, he's Arjun, an ex-cop who tracks down missing prostitutes in Goa while somehow managing to keep his stubble exactly the same length over a period of several weeks.

Arjun is a troubled sort. He renounced God following a run of suicides in his family and now drives around in a convertible scowling indiscriminately.

He thinks he's stumbled on a human trafficking case but the kidnapped women are in fact being butchered by Dheeraj (Prashant Narayanan), who has clearly been studying The Silence of the Lambs for a serial killing/transvestism masterclass. Not that this diminishes his clammy menace. Sometimes he even sings to his victims, crooning: "It will be such fun when I sever you." As a lyricist, he's no Jimmy Webb.

It's less engrossing watching the baby-faced Hashmi trying to appear vexed or tormented; in what should be his darkest hour, he suggests Janette Krankie weathering a migraine. But then Arjun is a character of unplayable contradictions. Were his interests to be listed in Who's Who, they would include having meaningless sex, smashing beer bottles in people's faces and giving wads of money to nuns and orphans. If only he could commit to Priya (Jacqueline Fernandez), a model whose hair and clothes billow seductively at all times, even when she's in a room with no visible ventilation. I strongly suspect she is being stalked by a fan.

Such customary Bollywood daftness not­withstanding, Murder 2 is a glossy, confident thriller executed with panache. While it borrows liberally from every serial killer movie from Tightrope to Seven, its mood of hell-for-leather excess quickly becomes intoxicating. Viewers accustomed to Hollywood's formulaic take on the same sort of material are in for a treat, even if they are thrown by the presence of an interval (a Bollywood convention), or by the dubious music-video coda featuring Arjun and Priya cavorting in the killer's boudoir.

Genre mash-ups, a staple of Bollywood, don't come much brasher than Bbuddah . . . Hoga Tera Baap. It begins as a gritty action movie, with a bomb blast in a Mumbai thoroughfare. The gang lord responsible takes umbrage at being described as a "disease" by the young assistant police commissioner, Karan (Sonu Sood), and swears to bring him down. Enter stage left, in a white safari suit and frosted goatee, the ageing assassin Vijju (Amitabh Bachchan).

For a legendary hit man, Vijju isn't in much of a hurry to kill Karan, but then perhaps his job description refers to his habit of hitting on every woman he sees. Other pastimes include intimidating anyone who mentions his age and indulging in dandyish costume changes so frequent they make Lady Gaga look like a sweatpants slob. Vijju can leave the house in floral shirt, purple scarf, riding boots and jeans with a tiger motif, only to arrive at a coffee shop in an entirely different ensemble. He can be summed up as Steven Seagal wrestling Warren Beatty in the body of Donald Sinden.

The movie mirrors that DNA. No sooner have the bomb victims been stretchered away than we are in the realm of Austin Powers-style comedy, with women young and old hurling themselves at this unlikely swinger. A Sophoclean tinge is introduced when one potential conquest discovers that Vijju courted her mother, leading to concerns that her new love may also be her long-lost father. This foreshadows a final change of genres, leading Vijju to repent his caddish ways, if not his wardrobe.

Some of the film's resonances must be lost on those of us unfamiliar with the work and reputation of Bachchan, but Bbuddah . . . Hoga Terra Baap remains pleasingly nutty. It's also blessed with one stand-out sequence in which a curmudgeonly registrar, averse to sanctioning any marriage that has not been arranged, is presented with the evidence of all the love unions he has waved through: a busload of chirruping children, each one named in his honour. l

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

This article first appeared in the 18 July 2011 issue of the New Statesman, India