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‘A Gentleman’ film review: Underwhelming, sluggish and risk-free

Raj & DK direct the action comedy starring Sidharth Malhotra and Jacqueline Fernandez.

A spiritual sequel to Bang Bang (2014), itself an official remake of Knight and Day (2010), A Gentleman gives us a double scoop of Sidharth Malhotra vanillaness.

The first is Gaurav, a boring, earnest, buttoned-down type who has reached the pinnacle of achievement in America: a house in Miami, a cavernous car and the possible companionship of a woman who channels the spirit of 1970s Bollywood heroines. Gaurav’s would-be girlfriend Kavya (Jacqueline Fernandez) likes speeding and pole dancing, and at least one skill comes handy when the time is right.

The other is Rishi (Malhotra again), an Indian undercover agent who executes several successful missions for the mysterious Colonel (Sunil Shetty) along with Yakoub (Darshan Kumar). Although Rishi is presented as the epitome of coolness, he matches Gaurav in his blandness. The movie has some fun teasing out the connections between these two gentlemen. Are they twins separated at birth? Lookalikes? Or are they the same person?

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A Gentleman (2017).

The actual identity confusion lies elsewhere. Directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, who currently go by the crisper title Raj & DK, bring their signature snark to a movie that also wants to fit into Bond-Bourne territory by way of True Lies. The directors and dialogue writer Sumit Batheja aim for a combination of punches and punchlines, giggles and bullets, running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. They send up formulaic elements while also slavishly reproducing them – always an untenable position, and certainly not one that can be maintained over 133 dragged-out minutes.

The agent who tries to break away and is hunted down by his former boss, the ditzy girlfriend who is the last to know, the dorky friend who embraces his violent side, the final mission to end it all, the meet-the-parents scene when bodies are strewn across the backyard – A Gentleman is unable to overcome its derivative cool and come up with new ways of reimagining the action comedy.

Some of the throwaway humour is on the nail, but many lines lunge for low-hanging fruit, such as the mirth that is supposed to follow the pronunciation of the name of Gaurav’s workmate, Dikshit (Hussain Dalal). Amit Mistry, a regular actor from Raj & DK’s movies, has a cameo as a Gujarati enforcer in Miami who will go down in movie history as the man who introduced the Gujarati concept baporia to the mainstream.

In trying to hardsell Malhotra’s all-rounder abilities, the movie ignores Jacqueline Fernandez’s potential as a Zeenat Aman reincarnation. Fernandez has more slinkiness than the whole movie put together, and she has fabulous chemistry with Malhotra, but she is as ornamental to the plot as was Aman in the Amitabh Bachchan movies.

Malhotra has nearly the whole story to himself, but he doesn’t yet have the acting range to master the art of underplaying. Several scenes demand that Gaurav’s visage crack to reveal life beneath it, but this surface is unbreakable. Since Malhotra isn’t the only one who is trying to be something he is not, his performance fits right in.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.