A man keeping his co-passengers hostage in a train is an interesting, though not quite a novel premise. While in Hollywood this genre has been beaten to death, even in Bollywood there have been films made on these lines. Couple of recent instances are an expensive 'Tezz' where a man planted a bomb in a train or an unknown affair called '332 - Mumbai To India' which was based on a real life instance when a man had hijacked a bus. While former flopped badly, latter didn't even release properly. As for fate of 'Rajdhani Express', it doesn't promise to be any different.
As a under privileged young man, Leander Paes carries an inferiority complex of being socially unfit. While his other co-passenger (Priyanshu Chatterjee), a writer, understands his plight, the other co-passengers, an item girl-cum-prostitute (Puja Bose) loathes him and a fashion designer (Sudhanshu Pandey) ignores him. Meanwhile, his demons from the past (a broken relationship with his girlfriend Sayali Bhagat and ridicule from her gangster father Kiran Kumar) continues to haunt him. He picks up the gun and threatens to kill everyone around him, all in the name of addressing his complex and emerge powerful.
While the basic plotline itself is hardly impressive or innovative, the way the film is shot is a lesson on how shoddy the narrative can get. Right from the way scenes are structured to the editing pattern to the poorly written dialogues to several laughable situations to the cinematography to the sound design to the placement music, everything is a textbook on how a film should not be made. Leave aside the narrative being coherent, the whole handing of the situation in hand is way too comical.
Though it would be futile to point out dozens of loopholes that the film carries, it is especially hard to digest the way cops, politicians and railways handle the situation. One would have expected this part of the movie to be engaging enough since the going ons inside the compartment hardly brought you to the edge of the seat. Unfortunately though, neither the presence of Jimmy Sheirgill nor the tough act of Mukesh Rishi manage to save the day. In fact one almost sympathises with them for finding themselves amidst the mess that has been created by the makers.
However the biggest problem in this entire machinery which completely derails 'Rajdhani Express' is the central protagonist Leander Paes himself. You realise in the very first frame that he is not acting but is being instructed to act. 'Sit there, look at the camera this way, hold your bag in this position, stare into the eye, drink you whiskey in two gulps, try appearing sad, growl at the person sitting next to you' - One can be sure that if one hears the unedited sound on the sets when his scenes were being shot, these would have been the instructions shared by the director to Leander even as the camera was rolling!
Others still make an attempt but that's not good enough. Puja carries a surprisingly jaded expression all through the film while bringing to fore every emotion. She seems to be drunk while mouthing every dialogue and her laidback persona turns out to be repetitive after a while. Sudhanshu is decent and so is Gulshan Grover (now what was he doing here?) as a T.T. The surprise of the film is Priyanshu (now where has he been all this while?) who is actually quite good, especially in the first half of the film, as he brings his comic side to the fore. He should be seen more often.
When a serious dramatic film turns out to be an out and out hilarious affair, you know that the entire affair has been messed up beyond control. This is what happens in case of 'Rajdhani Express' which is totally unbearable within 15 minutes of its affair. The only redeeming factor is that once you settle down to this very fact and begin to look at it as a two hour narrative that would be filled with laughter galore, all unintended of course, there is some respite that comes in. However that is not saying much for this poorly made film which lends a poor beginning as one of the first releases of 2013.