Raja Natwarlal

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Humaima Malick, Paresh Rawal,
Kay Kay Menon, Deepak Tijori
Direction: Kunal Deshmukh
Genre: Thriller
Duration: 2 hours 21 minutes

STORY: Small-time con-man Raja wants to take revenge on big-time criminal Vardha – will swindler-guru Yogi help or double-cross him?

REVIEW: Raja Natwarlal is a golden-hearted con for it leaves you smiling at its tricks, despite obvious flaws. Raja (Emraan) and partner Raghav (Deepak) pull off small confidence tricks in an appealing Mumbai of clattering trains, fragrant Iranis and gleaming dance bars. Raja loves dancer Zia (Humaima) and is set to marry after he persuades Raghav to steal 80 lakhs – which belong to big-time swindler Vardha (Kay Kay), who makes Raghav pay with his life.

Raja’s determined to take revenge but he needs the guru of crooks, Yogi (Paresh), to guide him. Will Yogi agree – and will Raja win? With its twisting story, good-looking frames and zingy acting, Raja Natwarlal keeps you entertained. Paresh Rawal stands out as Yogi, short-tempered, foul-mouthed and shrewd, a malicious mentor – “Kheenche hue kaan se mila hua gyaan hamesha yaad rehta hai” – wincing as he mentions “a very sweet boy”, the fine actor displaying the flair of an old lion that eats bottles of rum.

Kay Kay matches with his Vardha, a savage in a suit, oil-slick and lean, desperately keen on acquiring a cricket team, ready to bludgeon his way towards this. And Emraan convinces too, Raja both swaggering and vulnerable, a hero who smiles shyly, then kisses on the mouth (although pecks on the cheek can get more passionate than the demure caresses here). Pakistani actor Humaima presents a graceful Zia, her role relatively slender but including chest-thumping numbers like ‘Mere hothon ke namak-pare’, which will have your inner tapori tapping her feet. The plot travels from Mumbai to Dharamshala and Cape Town but director Kunal Deshmukh retains firm control.

The story packs in paisa, pyaar, confidence, over-confidence, chummas, chases, corrupt cops, cricket associations, surprises and some rather nice songs – but keeps its weight under control. Despite flaws – like how a don like Vardha doesn’t know the face of a man he’s seeking, who’s now persuading him to buy a nonexistent team – Raja Natwarlal wins you over by the sassy swagger of its tricks, its hit-men and ‘HDMC Bank’, its tongue lodged firmly in its cheek.

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