Reluctant heroine, reformed hero
There was an actor named Ajay Devgan
Who wanted to make a movie that cost a ton,
So he constructed a fancy castle for a set
And got the best special effects that money could get,
But in the end it all came undone!
However, Raju Chacha does make a breakthrough in three ways.
First, and most important, we finally have a film where Rishi Kapoor plays his age.
It is a visual treat to not see him as a romancing prancing loverboy in college.
Second, we see Kajol in her first film after her marriage to Ajay Devgan.
Third, the extravagant sets and special effects set a precedent for other Bollywood fare.
Raju Chacha almost had it all.
But it forgot something vital: A soul.
The film begins promisingly enough. There's a castle that looks like it has been lifted from EuroDisney. In this castle lives architect Siddhant Rai (Rishi Kapoor) with his brood of three -- Rohit, Rahul and Rani -- and a paternal butler called BBC (Tikku Talsania).
Among those whose absence is felt in the house is the children's mother and Raju Chacha, Siddhant's younger brother who left home after a fight.
The errant offsprings resent any disciplining factor in their lives. So all tutors and teachers are deviously sent off packing. Enter Anna (Kajol), an orphan, who wins the hearts of the kids and steals the heart of Shekhar (Ajay Devgan), a petty but good-natured crook.
Life is perfect. But since this is Bollywood, things have to go wrong. And they do.
Shekhar's unscrupulous present is unearthed. A heartbroken Anna returns to her orphanage. Siddhant Rai meets with an accident that leaves his children parentless. A hostile takeover of hearth and home by a set of wicked uncles puts the children's lives in jeopardy.
Because we're still in Bollywood, the rescue mission has to commence. Therefore, we have a gallant Shekhar disguised as Raju Chacha to the rescue.
Through various twists and turns that are too tedious to recall much less recount, the film makes its way to the inevitable happy ending.
What I have a problem with is the journey up to that happy ending.
There is no depth. The relationships lack complexity and warmth -- they are without history. And that is what makes their present and future so unconvincing. The only relationship with a hint of intensity is the one between Rishi Kapoor and his children.
Kajol and Ajay Devgan have perfected the deep-sighing-and-yearning-in-the-eyes look. But their love story has no layers nor dimensions. One can feel the chemistry brewing but, alas, all we get is a faint and unsatisfying whiff of it.
The kids are pleasantly unaffected and fresh. But again, their relationships with Kajol and Ajay remain sketchy and incomplete.
The cast does its bit: The bad guys are bad, the lovers are loving, the comedians are funny at most times.
But Raju Chacha leaves you wanting more. Much, much more.
Not that all hope is lost. Maybe the film has a chance with a not-so-discerning audience comprising wide-eyed tots and indulgent parents.
It's almost as if debut director Anil Devgan conscientiously studied an imaginary book called The Elementary Guide to Bollywood Box Office Success and then faithfully threw in a love angle with a reluctant heroine, a reformed hero, poor little rich kids, the villains, the faithful dog and the funny sidekick. He knew all the rules but forgot to use his heart while implementing them.
The musical duo of Jatin-Lalit have come up with two notably hummable tracks, Tune mujhe pehchana nahin and Yeh vaada raha.
That is where the melody ends and begins.
The film has been touted as Bollywood's tribute to the classic The Sound Of Music.
If that is the case, then Raju Chacha is The Sound Of Music without the melody or heart.
Director: Anil Devgan
Cast: Ajay Devgan, Kajol, Rishi Kapoor, Tikku Talsania
Special appearance: Sanjay Dutt
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Producer: Ajay Devgan
Raju Chacha Official Website