Those who have enjoyed Athadu
will be confronted with a disturbing dilemma while watching Ek - when it comes to a smouldering, dispassionate, imperturbable, iceberg expression, who does it better: Mahesh Babu, Bobby Deol, or the silently suffering audience?
Nandu (Bobby Deol) is a professional assassin who gives a whole new meaning to the word 'deadpan'. His unruffled demeanour lends a thrilling sense of reading 'nothing' in between his facial expressions. And when he is not busy non-chalantly gashing his victims' tummies in crowded marketplaces, he is definitely not busy keeping his hair-stylist's appointment. That wig does look like it's ready to fall off.
One day, someone beats him to an assignment he was given, and Nandu panics. He is forced to run from the police, from the top floor of a multi-storeyed building. At convenient reach are a moving crane and a moving train. Preferring common sense over fundamental laws of time, velocity and distance, Nandu bravely uses the crane to land on top of the train.
His joy at the escape doesn't last long. As fate would have it, he soon meets a boisterous Punjabi family who has allowed Raghavendra Rao's inhouse stylist to design clothes for their nubile, chubby-jowled, navel-baring adopted daughter, Preet (Shriya Saran). Preet makes no bones about the fact that she has a thing for our hero. In getting the point across, she frequently quivers her lips and eyes, and goes by the general motto of the film: 'Ek - Single Expression Extravaganza'.
Meanwhile, Rane (Nana Patekar) is a CBI officer with a fetish for any woman who bares skin 2 inches below her neck, of which there seem to be plenty all around him - his boss' servant, the morgue doctor's wife, a banker, and occasionally, some at the whorehouse by night. The rest of the story is about Nandu's escape from the law.
Ek chugs along too slowly to grip you - which is a wonder, because it seems to be doing most things Athadu did. For instance, the fights seem absurd, and the dialogues seemed to have sounded better in Telugu.
Athadu had a hearty, snug family track that formed the emotional quotient of the film. Ek substitutes a few Punjabi oddballs and their nonsensical banter for that entire chunk, and manages to limit the totally ho-hum family to the background. Its trials and tribulations fly by you in as detached a way as Kulbhushan Kharbanda (as the grandpa) delivers his lines. And the romance has been watered down as well.
Bobby Deol really had nothing to do throughout the flick, at least on the acting front, and this seems like a regular day at work for him. The jarring Shriya barely has a role, and doesn't hold a candle to Trisha (and her role), who came across as angelic and cute with her frantic line-marofying efforts. Nana Patekar's is the most interesting character which, with a twist from the original, saves you from plunging into bouts of fatigue - he has his usual characteristic cocky lines. The rest of the cast is mediocre.
The film has one or two nicely shot songs and some decent cinematography. However, giving in once more to that irresistible temptation of unfairly comparing this with Athadu, it is a shame to listen to a pedestrian title song in place of that head-spinning track that so set the mood for the Telugu film.
Some advice to Tollywood lovers - stay away. Some advice to Bollywood lovers - watch Athadu with subtitles.