, , , , , , , , , Bell Bottom Review: Akshay Kumar’s race against time is enthralling!!

3.5 Urbanasian Rating

Feature Name: Bell Bottom

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Lara Dutta, Huma Qureshi, Vaani Kapoor

Directed by: Ranjit Tewari

OTT: Disney + Hotstar  

BellBottom begins with a briefing about the historical events it is based on, an era of escalating hijacking incidents during the 1970s and early 1980s (until Indira Gandhi’s assassination in ’84), that the Government of India had to resolve.

Bellbottom Review: Akshay Kumar’s race against time is enthralling!!
Bellbottom Review: Akshay Kumar’s race against time is enthralling!!

This was a time of internal conflict for the country, and BellBottom launches on a tense, gripping note with the depiction of a hijacking sequence. Around 210 passengers are taken hostage.

We see Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (Lara Dutta) asserting that this state of things cannot continue. She is concerned about the seven hijackings in a span of five years, and is looking for a permanent solution.

We hear that dreaded name, the organisation that is behind the attack/s: “ISI”. Mrs Gandhi is told that there is one man who can deliver the solution: an undercover RAW (Research & Analysis Wing) agent.

And code name BellBottom, who is a specialist in defusing these kinds of crises.

That’s the cue for Akshay Kumar to make a masses-pleasing entry.

BellBottom isn’t just a multi-talented agent and the best man for the job. He also has a personal connection with the plane’s hijacking.

BellBottom isn’t just a multi-talented agent and the best man for the job. He also has a personal connection with the plane’s hijacking.

To find out what this is, the narrative rewinds to five years ago. BellBottom’s civilian name, we learn, is Anshul Malhotra. He loves his unnamed wife (Vaani Kapoor, whose chemistry with her co-star is promising).

Anshul’s mother Raavi (Dolly Ahluwalia) is a deeply loving presence in their life.

Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when she leaves for London, only to have her flight hijacked by militants. She dies in the incident.

The story cuts from past to present as we witness Anshul Malhotra’s transformation into BellBottom.

BellBottom is the perfect showcase for Akshay Kumar’s fitness at 53, especially when the action shifts entirely to the hijacking crisis in the second half.

Unsurprisingly, Agent BellBottom has a A-grade plan to foil the evil ISI. And this being an Akshay Kumar film, even amidst the tension, we get a few guffaw-inducing jokes.

Even though the film is based on a real-life drama, director Ranjit Tewari ensures he puts in a sprinkling of audience-pleasing elements: humour, romance etc, to varying degrees of success.

And even though the film builds up to the emotional, patriotic climax with a speech by their leading man, Tewari and BellBottom‘s writers (Aseem Arrora and Parveez Shaikh) do save a surprising twist for the final act.

Lara Dutta’s look as Indira Gandhi has received a lot of press, and while it is striking, one feels that she could have been a lot more expressive.

Still, her scenes with Kumar have a certain commanding quality, especially with the use of impactful dialogue.

Huma Qureshi has a limited role as an airport worker who comes into contact with BellBottom. However, the short screen time is no barrier to Qureshi making her presence felt with a powerful performance.

On the other hand, Vaani Kapoor has little to do apart from featuring in the film’s sole track, meant to depict the relationship between Anshul and his wife.

This is also the part of the film that could have been cut down, as the portions focusing on Anshul/BellBottom’s personal life drag a little. This could have tightened the run-time considerably.

What’s commendable are the strong performances by actors such as Adil Hussain, and Denzil Smith (playing RAW’s founder, albeit with only a couple if lines to deliver)

Films like Raazi and now Bell Bottom, inspired from true stories, put India’s intelligence agencies front and centre, allowing the heroics of personnel whose exploits are otherwise kept secret, to be shared with the audience.

Overall, and with the exception of a few dialogues, this is an entertainer that can be watched with the family — COVID precautions permitting.

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