Film: "Wanted"; Director: Prabhudeva; Cast: Salman Khan, Ayesha Takia, Prakash Raj, Mahesh Manjrekar, Govind Namdeo and Vinod Khanna; Rating: **
Though National Award-winner Prakash Raj's flamboyant villainy and Ayesha Takia's endearing cuteness miraculously find a place in the plot, this is the hero's vehicle like very few masala movies in recent times.
Salman Khan adapts his goon's name Radhe from his eralier "Tere Naam" where he mixed violence with vulnerability in a heady brew. The mix in "Wanted" is far more brackish and tangy.
"Wanted" is an old-fashioned bone-cruncher with guns and goons creating a kind of orchestrated anarchy that was done with far more elan in "Ghajini".
In "Wanted", the violence is far cruder and guttural. The hero is on a sort of society-cleansing spree where the mode of conduct adopted by the villains and heroes become the same.
Director Prabhudeva retains the crude edges from the Telugu original "Pokhiri". The villains are vicious and foul-mouthed and very often represent the kind of unfettered anti-socialism that can only be contained by the vigilanteism that Salman practices in the last-quarter of this blood-thirsty tale.
The plot is essentially about a one-man army who takes on a city filled with scums.
The villains are everywhere in Mumbai. It was Hyderabad in the Telugu original. But what difference does it make? Cities change, morality doesn't. The predators are everywhere - in boats, trains, pubs and warehouses.
One khaki-clad foul-mouthed villain (played with despicable authenticity by Mahesh Manjrekar) even infiltrates a decent woman's house and threatens to sleep with both mother and daughter.
Mercifully the daughter, Ayesha, has Salman for a boyfriend. But the poor police commissioner (Govind Namdeo, in a positive role for a change) is unlucky with his daughter. She gets kidnapped and raped by the arch-villain. It's a mean world out there...And thank god for the screen hero.
While Vinod Khanna is wasted, Manoj Pawa's role as the overgrown boy-next-door doesn't quite fit into the scheme of things. Prakash Raj as the villain gives celluloid diabolism an interesting new twist. He definitely looks menacing.
His confrontation with the police commissioner is written with that polished panache that brings a twist to pulp fictions.
But make no mistake. This is a made-to-order film for Salman. As a one-man army, he springs into every frame with that trademark mix of a bored swagger and agile comicality. His romantic moments with Ayesha have a lived-in credibility except when the songs take over.
Strictly for fans of action flicks, and Salman...in that order.