Director: Mahesh Bhatt
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanjay Dutt, Pooja Bhatt
Something is rotten in the offices of Vishesh Films. The 90s aesthetics, for starters. Characters encounter ghosts and hallucinate in Mahesh Bhatt’s Sadak 2, now streaming on Disney+Hotstar.
Ravi (Sanjay Dutt reprising his role from 1991’s smash hit Sadak) sees the ghost of his wife Pooja (Pooja Bhatt returns too if you can count a looming presence in a frame and a bunch of clips from the original film as one) and even converses with her.
Aarya Desai (Alia Bhatt), a twenty-one-year-old with a mission (India Fights Fake Gurus campaign, they really filmed the first draft) is believed to be suffering from an undefined mental disorder. They claim she hallucinates too. The “they” here refers to her aunt Nandini (Priyanka Bose) and Gyan Prakash (Makarand Deshpande), a godman under whose spell the whole Desai family is in.
Nandini married Aarya’s father Yogesh Desai (Jisshu Sengupta) almost as soon as her mother Shakuntala died of cancer, something Aarya doesn’t believe to be true. You see? Yes, things are so rotten that Priyanka Bose is the Claudius who got together with Jisshu Sengupta’s Gertrude.
The wealth was all under Shakuntala. But who is Hamlet? By all permutations and combinations, Aarya is Hamlet but then Ravi sees ghosts and hallucinates too (in the earlier film he had nightmares of his lost sister), they are indeed birds of a feather. Maybe he is Horatio. Or is he King Hamlet from Sadak, out to lend a safe passage for Aarya’s deliverance? Like in a road film which Sadak 2 is but, yeah, the religious definition too. Am I unnecessarily complicating a sequel of an early 90s Hindi film? That’s the only way to get through this film, written by Bhatt with Sumitra Sengupta.
But as we sit through two hours that feel like four, more rotten things emerge. Sadak 2 is a 2020 film, but, apparently, the need of the hour was a throwback to the 90s era of filmmaking. It also wants to tell you how coolly self-aware it is.
We get introduced to Vishal (Aditya Roy Kapur as Ophelia. No, really. I’ll stop now.) when Aarya says he waltzed into her life like a Hindi film hero – singing, guitar in hand. Do these films think they are owed a get-out-of-jail card when they can wink their way through lack of imagination? Almost every frame could have done with something like that.
Hey, here is something that reminds us of 90s films – a hero singing a longing melody. Or two. Oh, here’s another – a back story narration in the middle of the road. And now, more exposition in front of a bonfire.
Some more throwbacks and a recommendation of a “mental hospital” to someone who has just attempted suicide. Or one of the villains’ (played by Gulshan Grover, no less) quirk is making an entry whistling. The audience must think of heaven? Just show some clouds, mountains and shots that you take from your window seat in an airplane.
If you’d let me indulge – the Hamlet parallels are pushed down our throats. Every scene with Sengupta and Bose is so theatrical to the point of parody. The house resembles a goth film set abandoned in the 90s, and in walks Bose with her forehead smeared in red and a pistol in hand. The scene then takes a ghastly turn and Bhatt lingers minutes longer when even a moment would have been extra.
For a film with a self-anointed godman as the antagonist and the idea of godmen as something to be opposed, Sadak 2 has one too many calls to god and Hinduism. Aarya says that life belongs to god and it is his and his alone to take.
Sadak 2 begins with a cremating ritual followed by Aarya setting the cut-out of Gyan Prakash on fire (it begins where Sadak left – setting something on fire) and even one of the murders is ritualistic in the way it is filmed and performed. An owl is curiously named Kumbhakarna and Ravi ends things chanting ‘ram naam satya hai’ and adds a ‘har har mahadev’ for good measure.
He has tattoos of Shiva on his chest and shoulders. What exactly is the relationship between this film and God? It’s clear it wants to reject the idea of godmen and the business of god, but Bhatt infuses the film with one too many references to the very thing the film rallies against.
Aarya is a cakewalk for Alia Bhatt, we’ve seen her take on roles far more complex and turn them into smart treasures. Aarya though is Machiavellian, who will use even Ravi’s mental illness if it helps her cause. This seems to run in the Desai family. And the 90s hangover is a Bhatt family disease with no cure in sight.
The Sadak 2 review is a Silverscreen India original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreenindia.com and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.