Watch Bhaiyya Ji for Manoj Bajpayee who single-handedly elevates a forgettable B-grade film 

If it weren’t for Manoj Bajpayee, Bhaiyya Ji would have remained a loud, forgettable B-grade revenge saga with Hindi-heartland flavour and fervour. 

Directed by Apoorv Singh Karki, the 135-minute action-packed film has the usual characters, plot twists and tropes of the revenge genre. Though set in the times of smartphones and Scorpios, the film has a blast-from-the-past feel to it, specifically of Bollywood films of the 80s when rage was expressed through roars at vicious, vile villains who relished their villainy.

Revenge films are a celebration of righteous retribution and are given to excesses. There is no subversion or reinvention of the revenge genre here. Bhaiyya Ji is simply a high-decibel reiteration of the rampage that all revenge films are about. It is very violent (the film has got UA certification), has a predictable, weak story, some whistle-worthy dialogue, a few inspired flourishes and lots of idiotic, silly things. Yet Bhaiyya Ji is worth a watch because of Manoj Bajpayee’s intense, compelling performance. 

As the beedi-smoking, revenge-seeking bade bhaiyya from Bihar, Bajpayee carries the seething rage of a man who has been wronged in every pore of his body, not just in emotional scenes, but also as he lands deadly punches and slices bodies with style and speed. 

I just wish that Suvinder Vicky, who plays the villain here and was riveting to watch in the Netflix series ‘Kohrra’, had brought at least his B-game to Bhaiyya Ji, if not his A-game. 

Bhaiyya Ji’s setup is simple. In a small town in Bihar, Ram Charan aka Bhaiyya ji (Manoj Bajpayee) is getting married to Mithali (Zoya Hussain), a state-level shooter. His house is full of guests and his Choti Ma (step-mother, played by Bhagirathi Bai Kadam) is busy organising this and that. Bhaiyya ji is happy, but he is also worried about his younger brother, Vedant (Akash Makhija), who is about to set off from Delhi. Bhaiyya Ji keeps calling Vedant, and through their conversations we figure that they have a strong, adorable bond.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Delhi lives a very rich and a very bad man — Chandrabhan Singh (Suvinder Vicky). He wears fancy Nehru jackets embellished with brooches and chains, an extravagant pompadour and takes pleasure in butchering all those who dare to threaten his delinquent son, Abhimanyu (Jatin Goswami).

Since we are well-versed in the arts and crafts of revenge thrillers, we know that Bhaiyya Ji’s happy family and Chandrabhan’s heinous one are going to clash. We also know that Mithali’s shooting skills will come in handy at some point.

So obviously, something bad happens. 

Bhaiyya ji is called to Delhi by a cop, Magan (Vipin Sharma), who has some news about Vedant. He goes to Delhi and returns home with tears in his eyes, clutching an earthen pot and some basic facts about what happened to Vedant. 

But we, having witnessed Chandrabhan and Abhimanyu’s blood-curdling brutality, know exactly what happened to Vedant. So when Choti Ma, devastated and bereaved, insists on retribution, we are all for it. As is a crow who keeps visiting Bhaiyya ji’s house and apparently symbolises Vedant’s bhatakti aatma (a sad soul knocking about aimlessly).

But before Bhaiyya ji can proceed to exact revenge, there needs to be an official waiver of a promise he once made to Choti Ma about being non-violent.

The film tries to explain this backstory to us, but is totally incoherent. It feels as if a dog ate those two pertinent pages from the film’s script and no one noticed it. 

So what we get is gibberish that involves a medallion with a lion’s face, a statue at a railway station and a big reveal — all the city’s tailors, mechanics and anda-bread sellers are part of Bhaiyya ji’s secret militia group.

To make up for the missing backstory, the film decides that one Pandit Ji — who is always hanging around Chandrabhan for some mysterious reason — must keep muttering how scary, violence-prone and single-minded Bhaiyya ji is.

As Bhaiyya ji sets out for Chandrabhan’s massive bungalow, all the men in his city follow him, brandishing sticks, guns and sharp metal items. This entourage includes a group of geriatric, morning-walk uncles.  

Following a confrontation between Bhaiyya ji and Chandrabhan, the rest of the film plays out as a series of killing sprees in various locations — on a bridge, in a old haveli, at a railway station, around a fire pit — and involves a lot of bone-cracking, slashing, shooting and thrashing by Bhaiyya ji’s weapon of choice, a long-handled spade. All the action sequences are accompanied by deafening, rousing music.

One of the great joys of B-grade Bollywood films is that they deliver what they promise. Despite Bhaiyya Ji’s scatty script, director Karki, who made the Manoj Bajpayee-starrer courtroom drama ‘Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai’ last year, delivers on this count. ‘Bhaiyya Ji’ begins with chilling violence and the brutal murder of an innocent man, and ends on a satisfying, cathartic note. 

The film’s plot has the expected beats of revenge films, but in between it has some duds and delights. The duds are too many to list, but one special delight is Vipin Sharma’s corrupt but cowardly cop.

When the film begins, Zoya Hussain, cast as the coy bride-to-be, is totally blank and looks out of place. But later in the film, when she gets to shoot and save her prospective hubby, a la ‘Mr & Mrs Smith’, she raises the film’s thrill quotient.

Suvinder Vicky is an excellent actor with a commanding screen presence. Here he gets a dapper look and a meaty role, but remains expressionless and his villainy has no bite. 

‘Bhaiyya Ji’ is the sort of action film usually reserved for Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgn and Tiger Shroff. Manoj Bajpayee is a refreshing change from them because he doesn’t just kick hard, but can also act. The action sequences in Bhaiyya Ji are not just choreographed and executed with style, but Bajpayee keeps amping up his fury and turns every broken bone and slit throat into gratifying moments of vengeance. 

If you have strong ear drums and the stomach for relentless violence, watch ‘Bhaiyya Ji’ for Manoj Bajpayee who does all the heavy lifting here and elevates a B-grade film singlehandedly. 

Bhaiyya Ji

Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Suvinder Vicky, Vipin Sharma, Jatin Goswami, Zoya Hussain, Akash Makhija, Bhagirathi Bai Kadam

Direction: Apoorv Singh Karki

Rating: **1/2