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Director :
Music :
Starring :
 Madhur Bhandarkar
 Anu Malik
 Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty, Shatrughan Sinha, Paresh Rawal, Raveena Tandon, Lara Dutta, Irfaan Khan, Rahul Dev, Jackie Shroff

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS Send to Friend

While the cop heroes sweat it out in their humid halos, the men behind the scenes also make their presence felt in rapid fire motions in the emotionless picture show that is "Aan: Men At Work".

There's director Madhur Bhandarkar in his first foray into frenzied action. Big guns with bigger nozzles strut around with such exaggerated machismo that it becomes hard to tell the bad and good guys apart.

Bhandarkar treats his heroes and villains like characters in an extended video game for juvenile grownups.

Action director Abbas Ali Moghul holds the ricocheting reins of a major part of the narrative. Bang-bang, crunch-crunch, kill-kill, maim-maim! Other films have item songs, this has hordes of kill-me-kill-me item stunts.

Suniel Shetty and Akshay Kumar's introductory sequences - scampering into a good 10-15 minutes running-time each - are like two autonomous sub-plots in the main event.

The fights between the band of khaki-clad super-cops (Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty, Paresh Rawal, Shatrughan Sinha) and the gang of khadi and tuxedo-clad villains (Mohan Joshi, Milind Gunaji, Irfaan Khan, Rahul Dev) are so elaborate, you begin to wonder which came first: the police force, its brutality or films about the brutality of the police force.

Don't believe me. Believe your ears. Close your eyes and listen to the over-saturated sounds of this tangy tale of fly-by-night heroics. The onomatopoeic soundtrack is overpowered by gun shots and wailing sirens.

There are so many dance items that you finally stop counting. Foamy bottles open with lathery suggestiveness as women of every colour complexion and size slither and slurp into the camera in intimate postures.

Really, if this is how underworld dons and their minions live, who wants to be an honest cop with nothing more to his advantage than simmering morality?

Foreplay is the key to producer Feroz Nadiadwala's filmmaking. He's clearly a vital man at work in this tale of bristling busybodies. He swamps the screen with sleek guns and sexy girls.

Akshay is at the helm of the glam-fest masquerading as a film about the real life of dedicated cops.

Some of the shootouts, for example Rahul Dev's killing by Akshay - done in stark brutal black-and-white, or Suniel's slaying at the hands of a corrupt colleague (Ajinkya Deo) as his wife (Preeti Jhangiani in a blink-and-miss role) prays at home, are admittedly high-octane stuff, designed to get the audience's collective adrenaline rocking and rolling.

Apart from the stunt director, credit must go to cinematographer Madhu Rao who brings in a semblance of sensibility, otherwise lacking in the narrative.

Unlike, say, "Khakee", the individual itemised sequences fail to hold together in a cohesive whole. The drama is more dripping than gripping, with subtexts unabashedly borrowed from earlier cops films slapped on in a demonstration of eclectic machismo.

At one point the dialogue writer even makes a humorous reference to "Ab Tak Chhappan" in reference Suniel's character designed on Mumbai's super-cop, encounter-specialist Daya Nayak. Humour is welcome in a film that often takes itself dead seriously.

The corpses easily outnumber the cops. And the casualties include the two characters played by Vijay Raaz and Rajpal Yadav who hold a whole conversation comparing women with alcohol. The women are as eminently disposable as liquor bottles.

Besides the item girls who cavort in a wall-to-wall carpet, the main female leads Raveena Tandon and Lara Dutta get abysmal footage. Lara's song breaks with Akshay are no more than extensions of his macho aspirations.

Raveena as villainous tycoon Jackie Shroff's mistress echoes Manisha Koirala's character in Parto Ghosh's "Yugpurush". Raveena, poor thing, struggles to lend colour to a grossly under-sketched character.

The film belongs to the men, with Akshay Kumar leading the pungent pack. He's restrained sombre and effective. Suniel Shetty has a few key dramatic and action scenes that he bites into with famished ferocity.

Rawal's joking cop act is an alibi for his early death in the plot.

Among the villainous performers, Irfaan Khan makes the best impact. His self-consciously crowd-pleasing sequence with a corrupt judge in the latter's chamber smacks of an arrogant disregard for the government machinery that anti-establishment films are always guilty of.

"Aan" is one of those action films that make a frontal impact without leaving a lasting impression.

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