There are a few certainties in life: death, taxes, and Salman Khan pummelling bad guys to save the day. Although Radhe cannot release in cinemas in India, superstar Salman Khan has returned with his latest dose of heroism to accompany the Eid festivities Muslims around the world have been enjoying. For those unfamiliar with Indian cinema, Khan is the industry’s Dwayne Johnson equivalent, where his films are often built for popcorn entertainment and to cater to his incredibly charismatic persona and muscular physique. Also, similar to a Dwayne Johnson blockbuster, when Khan’s masala entertainers (action, comedy, romance, drama all rolled up into one) work, they make for a great cinema outing. However, when they don’t work, they can be a cringe-worthy affair. Radhe, unfortunately, falls more into the latter description.
The man who rejuvenated the masala genre alongside Khan with 2009’s Wanted, Prabhu Deva, holds the director title for Radhe, which is based on the Korean film The Outlaws. It tells the story of rampant drug usage in India that is destroying the youth and how there is only one man that can bring an end to this, Radhe (Khan), a rebellious police officer who has “his own methods of working.” The plot (or lack thereof) is, however, simply a backdrop for Khan to look cool, beat up multiple bad guys, and dance to some admittedly catchy songs with his leading lady. A recipe that’s not necessarily bad, but when that’s all you rely on for an almost two-hour runtime, it can get rather tiresome.
Although masala films are designed to entertain, they juggle a lot of elements. It’s a difficult balance, especially when you have the aura of a superstar to deal with as well, and balance is a big issue in Radhe, as everything feels too far-fetched in this film. Khan’s heroic entry is a perfect example. Radhe magically smashes through a terrible-looking CGI window without a villain knowing, as well as using a tiny piece of glass to cut that villain’s face, without him knowing, of course. We then see Radhe beat up multiple bad guys on his own and he delivers rather forced “catchy dialogue.” If it was anyone else but Khan in this scene, you’d possibly be looking for the nearest exit, but his charisma and “it factor” keep you watching. This is essentially a fair description for the rest of the film too.
Khan does feel like he’s going through the motions at times, and despite this, he still manages to salvage many scenes. Whether it’s his playful interactions with his lady-love Diya (Disha Patani) or his comical love-hate relationship with his police chief, Avinash (Jackie Shroff), Khan’s charm will make you laugh or at least make you smile. But such is with Radhe, even the good things aren’t capitalised on well enough due to the terribly unorganised narrative. For example, Diya happens to be the brother of Avinash, and instead of revealing this later to create a fun and surprising exchange between the two police officers, we find out immediately to create a far less eventful scene.
Fortunately, Radhe is full of great songs with plenty of fun choreography to go with them. A stand-out song is “Dil De Diya” as not only is it a feet-tapping track with a special guest appearance from Jacqueline Fernandez, it’s also intelligently used as a build-up to the first meeting/battle between Radhe, and his gangster foe, Rana (Randeep Hooda). The fact one of the best moments features Hooda’s Rana is no surprise. His character is easily the best part of the film due to his ability to come across as serious in an incredibly over the top vehicle built for Khan, and with only a few facial expressions, he also manages to strike a little bit of fear into nearly every scene he’s a part of. Yet for every good thing in Radhe, there seem to be three or four bad things.
Indian cinema has evolved for the better over the past few years, and that’s even been seen in some of Khan’s blockbusters. Unfortunately, Radhe is an example of the industry moving back. It over-indulges in tom-foolery, offers nothing for Disha Patani except to look pretty in songs, and it banks on tired tropes, songs, and a superstar to carry it to the finish line.
At just under two hours, a relatively short outing for an Indian film, the climax still felt like it came twenty minutes too late. The intention to release Radhe to entertain audiences on Eid, even amidst the ongoing troubles in India due to the pandemic, is admirable. However, you just wish their intention was backed by a greater focus on supporting Salman Khan’s superstardom with at least a coherent story. One should only watch Radhe if they’re a die-hard Salman Khan fan. If you’re not, maybe watch The Outlaws instead.
Radhe is in cinemas across the UK.