Rajeev Masand’s Review of Lucknow Central

In Lucknow Central, a bunch of desperate prison inmates turn to music in the hope of securing their freedom. Surface-level similarities to Qaidi Band notwithstanding, this is a premise with some potential, and first-time director Ranjit Tiwari delivers an inoffensive film with some moving scenes. But the inert script never powers the film with enough fuel to fly.

Farhan Akhtar plays Kishan, an aspiring singer in Muradabad, who is falsely accused of murder and thrown into jail. All his dreams of becoming a musical sensation are likely quashed forever…that is until he meets and befriends four fellow inmates who form a band to distract their despotic jailor while they secretly hatch an escape plan.

To begin with, the makers of this film spend more than an hour on set up. Introductions, back-stories, new rivalries in prison…frankly it’s exhausting. The band is finally set up just moments before intermission, so there’s a long way to go until we find out if they’re able to pull off their audacious plan.

Surprisingly one of the film’s big weaknesses is its leading man Farhan Akhtar, who appears so invested in playing ‘hero’ that he forgets to play the character. Both his toned physique and his physique-accentuating costumes look out of place in this movie. Casting Ronit Roy as the nostril-flaring jailor who inspires dread in his inmates has got to be the laziest decision, and Diana Penty is just blah in the role of an NGO worker convinced that forming a band and performing at an inter-jail concert will help reform these hardened criminals.

It’s all by-the-numbers storytelling, particularly the big escape plan and the way it unfolds. There is literally no surprise, no unpredictability in how things go down.

That’s a shame because there are some good actors on screen here, starting with Ravi Kishan as the shrewd chief minister who came up with idea of the concert to make himself look good. There’s also Deepak Dobriyal and Rajesh Sharma who bring the only genuine pathos you’ll find in this film.

A better title for Lucknow Central might have been Boredom Central. At nearly 2 hours and 30 minutes, it’s far too long and far too dull to inspire any other response. I’m going with a generous two out of five.

Rating: 2 / 5

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