Sanjay Dutt is in on it, and perhaps he is the only one. As Sadak 2 meanders between fake babas and greedy families, as it slaps on the melodrama and the rest of the cast goes through the paces, Sanjay Dutt really gets into the spirit of things. His Ravi is grizzled and shows his gut, but that doesn't stop him from going head-to-head with the first baddie he sees. Don't miss the smile on his face and the song on his lips as he goes at it. He brings the only moments of joy in this uniformly dreary outing.
The trouble with Sadak 2 is that it is so deeply entrenched in the worst aspects of 90s filmmaking that all of Dutt's aching intensity and hell-for-leather action cannot free it. It's a far cry from the superb cinema Mahesh Bhatt served us back in the day – I speak of Naam and Zakhm, Arth and Daddy. Sadak 2 regurgitates the most cliched, exaggerated pulp that Bollywood spewed out in the decade, and in the one preceding it.
The themes of death, suicide and mental illness are all pervasive in the film and are handled with all the finesse of a bull in a china shop. Aching for his lost love, Sanjay's Ravi constantly talks of a 'reunion up in the heavens' and often tries to act on it. The one time his friend manages to drag him to the hospital, the doctor asks him what he would do if his house was on fire. His answer involves a can of petrol. Alia Bhatt's Aarya, who is trying to unmask a 'dhongi baba' named Gyaan Prakash (Makrand Deshpande), is quickly labelled crazy and sent to the same doc. There is even a mention of her being threatened with electric shock therapy!
Written by Mahesh Bhatt and Suhrita Sengupta, the film looks dated from the word go. Makrand Deshpande's cut-out hulks over a religious ceremony that is straight out of a Dan Brown book. This is perhaps the only time we really see anything remotely connected to religion or faith. Alia spray-paints the word 'revenge' on the cut-out before setting it afire. Amid this private Dussehra, she is chased around by the baba's minions and ends up in the said hospital.
An heiress, Alia goes on the run from the fake baba – an ungainly phrase, doesn't help how many times the film says it -- who has got his hooks into her family too – father Yogesh (Jisshu Sengupta) and step mommy Nandini (Priyanka Bose). She hires Ravi, who is pining for his lost love (Pooja Bhatt, seen only in portraits), to drive her to Kailash to fulfil a promise she made to her dead mother. Coming along for the ride is her boyfriend (Aditya Roy Kapur). What follows are more twists than you'd see even in an Abbas-Mustan film, and each is more hilarious than the last one, finally leading us to one of the most cringe-inducing climaxes of any film this year.
Many veterans put in an appearance too – there is Gulshan Grover as Dilip Hathkata and Mohan Joshi as a corrupt police officer Rajesh. Weighed down by the ponderous story and sluggish pace, none of them add much to Sadak 2. Even the naturally gifted Alia Bhatt fails to rise above the expository dialogues and the leaden narrative.
Montages from the original Sadak, interspersed through this iteration, never let us forget how half baked this product is. And then there are the self-referential nods – Makrand's baba appears in drag, as a nod to Sadashiv Amrapurkar's iconic Maharani from the first film, perhaps. It comes across as a cheap knock-off, a lot like this film.