There is a college somewhere in Himachal Pradesh. It is called Woodstock. It seems to have only one active teacher. This lady is anyways a class apart. When she decides to stage William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with her students, she not only disembowels the timeless tragedy of the Bard’s language – “we are doing a musical, we don’t need words,” she announces to her wards – she also appends a scene to the play and names it ‘the Heaven Act’. The nerve of the blissfully ignorant! Needless to say, the performance is hell, a full-on travesty. That is a malaise that afflicts Abbas-Mustan’s Machine as a whole. This machine is neither mean nor lean. The racket that it makes is deafening and brain-numbing. The ideas that it rolls out consistently fly in the face of logic and common sense.
Machine is an unmitigated disaster. It is cranked with such a heavy hand that its hastily cobbled-up parts come off their sockets even before the rough-hewn contraption can heave itself to any sort of life. Broadly, it tells the story of a man obsessed with money, a boy obsessed with his dad, and a girl obsessed with a lover/husband who has wronged her and hanged her out to dry. Fast cars, terrible songs, including two remixed retro numbers, and corny dialogues worsen matters to such an extent that even at its least trashy Machine is insufferable.
Abbas and Mustan are clearly caught in a time warp. Time was when they could do no wrong. The filmmaking pair who built their career around plots filched from Hollywood set the likes of Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar on the path to superstardom. But that was a quarter of a century ago. Back then, the world was a markedly different place. And so was Bollywood. Machine, a launch pad for Abbas’ son Mustafa, has come many years too late. It is a creaky, outdated concoction that proffers an awkward mix of car racing, music, romance, crime and retribution.
Machine retreads formula tropes that, by all reckoning, went out of vogue in the last millennium. They look completely out of place in a film that aspires to give Bollywood a male star of the future. Mustafa plays an anti-hero who is accused by the heroine of being a machine – heartless. This charge is levelled against him in the dying minutes of the film. But it doesn’t take the audience that long to figure out that Machine is pure drivel – mindless and pointless.