It is interesting to see how the heist film has evolved in Hindi cinema – the days of the property deeds/diamonds in the safe have now been replaced by coveting positions of influence and the spending power that is assumed to come with it. And if Raja Natwarlal had stuck to exploring this idea fully, we would have had a much stronger and coherent film on hand. Instead, there are songs to break the rhythm of the narrative, major plot points quickly skimmed over before the viewer can get invested and of course, any excuse for Emraan Hashmi to kiss a beautiful woman in the rain whilst a horny but mellow song plays in the background.
It is a shame that Raja Natwarlal puts convenience and the commercial over its credibility because when the action does get going, it is entertaining and thought provoking without trying too hard. As usual, a poorly curated script is to blame here because by chopping out all the songs, the love angle and with a little rearrangement of exposition, this could have been the perfect heist movie vehicle. I also wish the screenplay had allowed more time to get to know the characters, especially as there are some very nuanced portrayals on show here.
It is Rawal and Menon who are the backbone of Raja Natwarlal – infusing their characters with depth and gumption, we are led to believe this is a battle of two masterminds and it would have been a better film if it was. Still, Menon manages to make us sympathise at the end with Yadav whilst Rawal plays down Yogi’s betrayal entirely for full redemption at the end – interesting because neither is meant to be likeable. Hashmi is on auto-pilot, doing better in some of the ensemble scenes but seemingly stuck in a static mode throughout. Malick makes an assured debut but with little to do, she plays Ziya by the book – however, her chemistry with Hashmi is interesting, albeit wrongly utilised throughout.
So whilst Raja Natwarlal does have its moments, as a whole, it is not the slick entertainer that it aspires to be. No one should be surprised that the ending leaves proceedings completely open for a sequel but this would not actually be a bad thing – with some refinement and consideration, this film could easily be repackaged and succeed in capturing the wider audience that it seems to desire. Not one to make a trip to the multiplex for then but worth a look on DVD or telecast where it might just find more acceptance.