Saltanat, director Syed Faisal Bukhari’s real life inspired underworld action movie is probably the worst film in the history of cinema. Never have I seen a film where people walked out of the cinema. After all two and a half hour of inconsistent nonsense is enough to test any nationalist’s loyalty to domestic cinema.
A Complete Hotchpotch
The movie’s chief protagonist – the underworld hero, Aslam bhai is played by Aslam Bhatti who is also the producer and co-distributor of the film.
The plot tells us in fleeting insights that he is now a businessman. There is no mention of his trade just that he is emotionally unstable, but is generally a good natured man who doesn’t have the best of relations with his family in rural Pakistan .
Aslam, though has an empire in the Middle East, chock full of foreign ladies clad in stylish bare-necessities, as is visible in the trailer. Despite this, Aslam never misses ‘Jummah’ prayers a plot point that gains significance before the movie’s climatic brawl between two underworld factions in a far off, undisclosed, forest-side location. Like the story tracks , the locations have little consequence.
Aslam’s wife is Pari (Shweta Tiwari), a good-looking, docile and understanding woman. Aslam, however, had feelings for Tara (Achint Kaur), who obviously shuns them. Aslam proposes to Pari on the turnaround, and she accepts.
Meanwhile, Aslam has enemies: a cousin, Sikandar also a criminal villain, played by Javed Sheikh and Gharou Dollar (Govind Namdev), a money forger whose “counterfeit are so real that real money looks mock in comparison”; or as he says “Dollar naqli chapta hoon, par baat asli karta hoon.
It seems like Sikandar and Dollar have nothing else to do other than plot Aslam’s demise, or set-about some manner of emotional trauma. One of their backfired strategies involves an inter-family marriage between Sikandar’s son and Aslam's younger sister Zainab, which results in a wrecked engagement ceremony, a bloody head on a plate and smashed champagne bottles.
Sikandar and Dollar find a deranged associate, whose older brother (Puneet Issar), also an underworld don, is brutally beaten by Aslam. Their clash – involving Salman Khan-style wire-works and slow-motion – is Saltanat’s only viable action scene.
Tara, meanwhile, is working against everyone as an agent of TSI – Thai Special Investigation. How she investigates is a mystery the department’s personnel have paperback novels lined up in their work cubicles, so that tells a lot of their dedication to work.
In one scene Tara warns a monk of his safety presumably he’s a witness of the state. The monk, trained with Shaolin Kung Fu skills, is soon assassinated by Sikandar’s hit men in a badly shot, amateur action sequence.
Acting: Better fit for TV
Bhatti, who plays the lead, interestingly has more than adequate screen-presence. His Aslam exudes the manic bad guy persona with ease. His character would have been the powerhouse he is claimed to be, but right now he walks around with his pet cheetah, appears in a song or three, and guns down baddies when he’s pissed.
Tiwari handles herself with relative ease, so does ZQ, Achnit Kaur and Chetan Hansraj.
Govind Namdev, Puneet Issar and Deepak Shirke play variations of people they’ve done endlessly, hence their on screen villainy comes off without a hitch. Javed Sheikh, although experienced, is limited by what he is allowed to perform, so his handicap is the script’s pages he’s handed on set.
Akashdeep Saigal, however, is Saltanat’s most unwise casting decision. The way he quivers, shakes, and rattles his body in moments of anger, distress or general dialogue delivery, looks like he’s convulsing in 104 fever.
Saigal should take pointers from the foreign dancer promiscuously performing the remix of 'Sone Di Tawatri' she is, at the very least, trying to lip-synch her lyrics.
The songs by Sajid Hussain, however, were better than expected.
Narrative: Assembled to fit
The film looks like an afterthought, left to be pieced together in the edit bay. If Bukhari had a better handle on his subject and chose to shoot just a motion picture, and then a serial, the narrative and the characters living inside this Saltanat would have been gratifying and perhaps, relatable.
The final word
Definitely not a good way to spend your Eid day or any other day for that matter.