Cast: Akshay Kumar, Lara Dutta, Huma Qureshi, Vaani Kapoor, Adil Hussain, Thalaivasal Vijay, Abhijit Lahiri
Director: Ranjit M Tewari
Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)
Starring Akshay Kumar as a 1980s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) agent who leads a covert operation to rescue 210 passengers held prisoner on an Indian Airlines plane hijacked by Pakistan-sponsored desperados, Bell Bottom marks Hindi cinema’s return to the big screen after a long-drawn-out quiet necessitated by the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. It isn’t, however, the big-bang concern one had expected.
The lead actor lends irrefutable star power to the film, playing a flamboyant 30-something spy who knows the minds of hijackers like the back of his hand. That is all there is to Bell Bottom. Everything else, including the way the principal character is fleshed out, is pretty pedestrian.
The film’s hero is Anshul Malhotra, a secret agent codenamed Bell Bottom and married to an MTNL employee (Vaani Kapoor) who floats unobtrusively in the background like a decent, obedient, madly in love wife. Every time the secret agent returns home, the lady is at the door to accept him with hugs and pecks on the cheek.
The man’s boss Santook (Adil Hussain), too, faiths him with his life. When Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) masterminds a hijacking with the intention of haggling for the release of a rare Khalistani extremists lodged in Indian jails, he recommends him to Mrs. Indira Gandhi (Lara Dutta hidden behind layers of prosthetics) and asserts that he has the chops to solve the hostage crisis.
The foreign affairs minister (Thalaivasal Vijay), the civil aviation minister (Abhijit Lahiri), and the Intelligence Bureau chief are openly skeptical about the spy who has come in from the cold with a set of ideas that are at variance with theirs. James Bond has indeed invoked in one throwaway line that the hero spouts. Do not let that send your expectations soaring – Bell Bottom has neither a top-draw villain nor an enigmatic, sultry femme fatale to liven up the proceedings.
To be fair, there is an element of intrigue nearby the characters of Agent Bell Bottom’s spouse and the RAW point being in Dubai (played by Huma Qureshi), but it is sprung upon the viewers far too late in the film for it to make a meaningful difference. No matter how crusty our fearless secret agent is, he is a mamma’s boy who sheds abundant tears when his mother leaves for London to visit her elder son. Tough guys do cry. Unfortunately, his mom (Dolly Ahluwalia), the loquacious object of his filial devotion, gets short shrift.
Scripted by Aseem Arora and Parveez Sheikh, Bell Bottom dangles midair between an exciting hostage rescue thriller and an insipid star vehicle intended in a means that allows the lead actor to completely crush the potential of the narrative material.
The rescue mission, which sees its share of ups and downs, quite literally kicks up a storm in the desert but the film fizzles out well before it has run its course because director Ranjit M. Tewari’s tactic is way too leaden-footed for an actioner inspired by true events.
The movie has a great deal of action all correct, but it is awfully low on sentiments. This is despite the fact that the protagonist is admittedly “personally devoted” in the case. He goes out on a limb for mother and motherland (armed primarily with poker-faced pomposity) to teach the captors an experience.