Bullett Raja is essentially a crackling character in search of a story. Saif Ali Khan is Raja Mishra, a natural born killer, who begins by saying that he doesn’t want to do goonda gardi but ends up becoming a political commando.
Which means a strongman who functions under the patronage of a powerful politician. His right hand, or as he puts it, ‘mere Shashi Kapoor’, is Rudra, played by Jimmy Sheirgill. Their self-given tagline is Raja aur Rudra, sabke virudh.
Raja Mishra is a murderous yet attractive rogue who is armed with attitude, guns and some killer dialogue, written by director Tigmanshu Dhulia. In the opening sequence, as the cops close in on Raja, he coolly thinks: “Lagta hai aaj hum minimize hone jaa rahe hain.” Saif owns the role.
There is no hesitation or warming up as he takes on a character very different from the urbane romantic heroes we usually see him play. He tempers the violence with a vulnerability and mischievousness.
Tigmanshu, who also co-wrote the story, gives Saif a full-bodied character to inhabit but he fails to provide the character a compelling story to work with. Bullett Raja is a standard issue revenge story with the usual array of corrupt ministers, cops, criminals and their machinations as elections loom large. The screenplay is half-baked and strangely disjointed so, at one point, randomly we end up in Mumbai, where we get the item song Tamanche Pe Disco.
At another, we are in Kolkata where the lilting Saamne hai Savera gives us relief from violence. Sonakshi Sinha appears dutifully on these occasions to inject prettiness into the proceedings and then, just as dutifully, disappears. Tigmanshu’s earlier films are rich in atmosphere and mood.
His deliciously twisted characters stew in a mess of their own making. Bullett Raja has flashes of fire but mostly it seems to be hobbled by a misguided sense of machismo. Everyone struts — including Vidyut Jamwal who makes an appearance as a dynamic cop — but no one goes anywhere. Which is a shame because these UP cowboys could have been fun.