Prabhudeva attempts directing. Salman tries acting. Both fail, and call the mess Wanted. My expectations with Wanted were fairly low anyway, and the movie didn’t disappoint me on that front.
To begin with, Superman Salman Khan looks a little too beefy with bad muscle definition to be performing the stunts he does in the movie. His movements are, apparently for that reason, laboured and least bit convincing. Besides, the Matrix-kind semi-frozen action sequences are now a bit too oft-repeated and are now used with too little discretion to hold interest.
The movie treads the well-beaten track and mixes several formulae to come up with a stale concoction that expects the viewers to don their masala-movie hats and doggedly keep the real world out of the picture so long as they watch the Khan-uixotic circus.
Khan plays Radhey, who, despite some shades of the Tere Naam Radhey, is no lover boy but a hardcore contract killer who works for just one thing – money. He is a one-man army of the Rambo kind. He kills not only mercilessly and remorselessly but also with unusual brutality.
The crime backdrop is a regular one with two warring groups, one of which is eventually joined by Radhey. And it is later revealed that he is an undercover cop and an IPS officer. So, Radhey is no uneducated hooligan, but an able police officer doing some cleaning up. The problem is that no IPS officer has even been known to have gone undercover in India.
Undercover operatives are police officers hardened in the ways of the criminals, who are well-conversant with the underworld and the world of organized crime. In short, they are the closest thing to a real criminal without being a criminal. Minor crimes, like stealing and fighting, are pardoned and covered up, but no undercover operative is allowed to kill, or cause harm to any innocent person or even a criminal except in self-defense.
The skills and expertise of an IPS officer is of no use to an undercover operative because he is not to deal with matters of police administration or try to formulate a new crime-fighting mechanism or improve upon the old one. After all, John Rambo is a war-hardened solider and not a General with the ability to strategize and execute a military operation. He fights with his raw, animal instincts and does not believe in the talk of ‘change’ and reformation. If truth be told, educated brains are often incapable of the studied indifference to crime that is an indispensable requirement for an undercover operative. So, it is useless to try using an IPS officer for the job these officers are just not fit for. Besides, why risk a high-raking officer anyway?
Furthermore, Indian police depends far more on informants than on undercover operatives for intelligence on organized crime, and it works perfectly well because organized crime is not as advanced a threat in India as in the West. So, much of the fodder for Indian undercover movies actually comes from Hollywood. Kaante was the last successful undercover cop movie, and was an almost frame-for-frame remake of Quentin Tarantino’s much-appreciated Reservoir Dogs. Doubtlessly, it was a superbly made and neatly packaged movie with all technical details taken good care of. Of course, none of that is to be found in Wanted.
When it comes to movies on undercover operatives, Donnie Brasco is one of the most successful and realistic ones ever made with Pistone alias Brasco very convincingly played by – who else? – Johnny Depp. Based on the undercover life of the world’s most successful undercover agent in history, Joseph Dominick Pistone, the movie religiously documents Pistone’s infiltration of New York City’s Bonanno Crime Family, which ultimately led to more than 200 indictments and over 100 convictions.
Pistone became a Special Agent of the FBI in 1969, and was transferred to New York in 1974. It was in 1974 that he went undercover the first time and infiltrated a gang that stole 18-wheel trucks and bulldozers. The infiltration of the gang made the arrest of 30 criminals possible.
A great deal of background check was undertaken before Pistone was given the name ‘Donald Brasco’, which became the well-known Donnie Brasco over a period of time. He went undercover as a jewel thief. The undercover operation was originally planned to run for six months and was not intended to penetrate the mafia, but only to investigate people who were fencing stolen property from a great number of truck hijackings taking place in New York during that time. But Pistone ended up penetrating the mafia deep and the operation stretched for as long as six years.
Naturally, when it was revealed that one of their own, who they knew as Donnie Brasco, was actually an FBI undercover operative Pistone, the gangsters were furious and a $500,000 prize was announced for killing Pistone. But none succeeded and Pistone continues to live to this day.
Unlike Radhey, Pistone did not kill anyone, and did not commit any major offences. What he did at best was to stage crimes with the help of the police and other authorities so as to convince the mafia of his being a genuine criminal without causing any real harm to the common man.
To kill willfully is a crime unless done in self-defence, and killing criminals or murderers is no less a murder than killing innocent citizens. No undercover operative of an investigation agency is ever ‘licensed to kill’. And normally Hollywood plays it close to reality, which is why in Kaante – it being a remake of Reservoir Dogs – the undercover agent carefully and cunningly avoids committing any crime himself and does not kill on any occasion except to save the life of a police officer, and killing to protect someone else’s life is covered within the legal definition of ‘self-defence’.
But Wanted is a different ballgame all together. Director Prabhudeva takes as many liberties as possible with the reality and packs in brutality reminiscent of Ghajini with no explanation of the kind that is central to Aamir’s character in Ghajini. Radhey is neither a convincing contract killer, nor a believable IPS officer and, what’s worse is that he also does not stand between the two. He is just Salman Khan and this time it’s not just his ever-questionable acting skills to blame but also Pradbhudeva’s failure at creating a character on the screen. The same Salman was far more convincing as the other Radhey in Tere Naam.
So, Wanted is a miserable failure of attempted Prabhu Tarantino and Salman Depp.
Originally written for and published in LAWYERS UPDATE [November 2009 Issue; Vol. XV, Part 11]