The main characters of Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3 are fond of three things: drinking, shooting, and drinking and shooting. Even the game of Russian roulette in the film gets triggered after downing a vodka shot. Real life tells us that excessive reliance on alcohol is a cause for concern. Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3 convinces you that that argument can be extrapolated to movies, too.
Like the first two films in the installment, Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3 is about quest for power. After serving time in jail, Aditya Pratap Singh (Jimmy Sheirgill), the royal scion, wants to regain power; his wife, Madhvi (Mahie Gill), now a member of parliament — who cheated on, and got cheated by, her husband — wants to hold on to it. Then there’s Uday Pratap Singh (Sanjay Dutt), a member of another royal family who has been living in London for the last 20 years — someone who is a cross between a businessman and a gangster, whose definitions and means of power are as primitive and dangerous as Aditya and Madhvi’s. Their lives coincide when Uday is deported to India for assaulting a patron at a club.
The story of trigger-happy individuals in a power-drunk world, where relationships are governed by violence, deceit, and lust, is certainly not novel. Its themes have been explored in numerous films, including the franchise’s headliner, Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster. But what’s astonishing about this film is that it’s made with a remarkable level of indifference — as if this were a commissioned side project for the director, Tigmanshu Dhulia, who could not be bothered beyond a point. The banality of the film’s world in itself is not a problem; it’s that nothing here seems piercing or poignant. Right from the first sequence — which has Dutt getting people killed with “he’s the baba; he’s the baba” playing in the background — Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3 feels like a patchwork of shoddy Bollywood films whose prints were discarded by their makers.
Nearly nothing in this movie lights your curiosity. Even after having spent such a long time in jail, Aditya hardly changes as a person or as a politician. Madhvi’s resentment of him, likewise, is unwavering. Uday too, who is visiting home after two decades, shows no signs of having experienced a major life event. If the combination of hackneyed setting and cardboard characters sounds unbearable then fret not, for this film has more in store: bad acting.
Gill, playing the role of an aggrieved, ambitious woman, seems to have mistaken shrillness for aggression. Sheirgill, a much better actor otherwise, looks stone-faced throughout. And Dutt, awkwardly romancing Chitrangda Singh (when not firing bullets or guzzling vodka shots), is a picture of embarrassment. This utter lack of imagination and effort is evident in the way this film is shot and cut as well. Some scenes are marked by abrupt transitions; an ‘item’ song near the interval reminds you of every clichéd Hindi gangster film ever; Uday and Suhani (Singh) dancing in the deserts of Rajasthan, to the tunes of an immensely forgettable song, successfully apes a bad 1990s film.
Debuting with Haasil and peaking with Paan Singh Tomar, Dhulia, once a promising director, hasn’t made a solid film in years. Like Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3, his last work, Raag Desh, was a monumental disappointment, hinting incipient creative bankruptcy. At one point, Dhulia looked like a filmmaker who could push the boundaries of Hindi cinema. Now he’s fast embracing the mediocrity he once rallied against. His latest is more than just shoddy, for shoddiness at least elicits strong feelings. Sitting through Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3 feels like watching a conveyor belt that refuses to budge for 140 long minutes.