Story: Buddies Bikram and Bala control Calcutta’s black trade, both falling in love with Nandita – who’s the biggest gunda?
Review: Straight up, Gunday pays loving homage to Bollywood classics ‘Sholay’, ‘Kaala Patthar’ and other ‘brothers-in-arms’ films while offering more. Gunday is Oliver Twist, given a Bollywood twist. Orphaned Bala (Kapoor) saves waif Bikram (Singh) from a paedophile in war-torn Bangladesh. Escaping officials, the two boys reach Calcutta, hiding on a train. Facing homelessness and heartlessness, the duo decides to conquer life, selling stolen coal – till they become Calcutta’s most famous gundey, controlling all its illegal trading from timber to fish.
Bikram and Bala are tough, cheerful and inseparable – until they both fall for cabaret dancer Nandita (Chopra). As they bitterly fall out with each other, ACP Satyajit Sarkar (Khan) closes in for the kill. Gunday showcases refugee Robin Hoods refusing to be beaten. Its music has peppy, bright dil while its muscular action is hard-hitting. Irrfan stands out as the sarcastically drawling cop while Arjun displays endearing vulnerability as dark-natured Bala. Ranveer endows Bikram with a charming, if familiar swagger while Priyanka infuses Nandita with languid sexiness.
However, the plot distractedly rushes in several directions – refugee angst, ration cards, the system’s rot, gang wars, bromance, romance, broken bromance – while Calcutta appears like a Wild West of the east, fringed by Chambal-like landscapes through which goods trains sway, gundas bashing each other to coal dust atop.
Gunday’s heart is in the right place but the plot gets overwhelmed by its own voluptuousness, its slick torsos and slow-motion slaps, its extended Durga Puja which leaves it lost between Calcutta’s cabarets and Dhanbad’s dark mines. However, Gunday’s fun while it lasts. Bala and Bikram’s chemistry is literally fleshed out well – don’t miss the cheeky salaam to Salman Khan when their shirts fly off – and you giggle as they’re scolded, “Daant mat dikhao!” More depth, more fire would’ve sharpened this film. But Gunday offers glitter coating a grim tale.