Sadak 2 review: Not even Alia Bhatt can revive an ageing Mahesh Bhatt’s career

While Jisshu Sengupta, Sanjay Dutt are competent, the shambolic writing, screenplay spells doomsday for the film and Mahesh Bhatt has perhaps reached the end of the road as a director

Rating: 1 / 5

In 2016, while promoting Raaz Reboot [2016], Mahesh Bhatt was asked whether he would like to direct his daughter Alia Bhatt. “Hum [Vishesh Films] stars ke saath kaam nahi karte (We don’t work with stars),” Bhatt said with a smile.  And he was right.  Look at the history of Vishesh films, and they’ve largely launched new talents.   

What’s also true is that Vishesh Films is no longer the force that it once was. The odd horror success story couldn’t mask the other duds that Vishesh Films produced in the last decade.  Perhaps, this was a time to break old norms. In 2018, Bhatt announced his return to direction with Sadak 2 – the spiritual successor to his 1991 romantic thriller of the same title.  Soon it was confirmed that Alia Bhatt would star in the film, with Sanjay Dutt, older daughter Pooja Bhatt set to reprise their roles as Ravi and Pooja respectively.

The original Sadak [1991] drew similarities with Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver [1976]. Well, many of Bhatt’s films were ‘inspired by’ American films.  While Sadak 2 (Road 2) is no rip-off but neither is it a novel story. Bhatt and his co-writer Suhrita Sengupta, who claimed that Sushant Singh Rajput was hearing voices, have raised a voice against blind faith, dubious godmen/women.

Aryaa Desai [Alia Bhatt] is a young crusader determined to expose the fake godman Gyaan Prakaash [Makarand Deshpande]. Unfortunately, among his followers is her vulnerable father Yogesh Desai [Jisshu Sengupta] and her devious aunt, now step-mom Nandini [Priyanka Bose]. 

The young girl believes that blessings from Lord Shiva at the famous Kailash Mountain will help her to fight the evil. Ravi [Sanjay Dutt] turns up in her life like a god-send cabbie. Actually, it’s the girl who lands up at Ravi’s doorstep pleading him that this trip to Kailash is actually her late mother’s wish. Along the way, she picks her boyfriend Vishal [Aditya Roy Kapur].

As a viewer, you perhaps wonder whether Aryaa seeks more than blessings at Kailash. Bizarrely, it turns out there was just one primary purpose – blessing. That begs the question, if your aim is to bust a fake guru’s citadel, then why waste time travelling to Kailash? Oh, if our lady didn’t hit the road, then how else would she have met Ravi?  Besides, if there is no road trip, then it doesn’t qualify to be a Sadak 2. Eventually, it’s not just Aryaa, but the director and his screenwriter, too, who digress from their main path.

The shoddy screenplay throws up one dull moment after another making a complete mockery of the issue that Bhatt so dearly desired to expose – con gurus.  The big problem with Sadak 2 [2020] is that there is no seriousness attached to Aryaa’s mission. And blame that on the girl herself. Aryaa appears more excited to travel to Kailash than take down Gyaan Prakaash.  It’s not her performance, but the poor writing that hampers Alia and the film at large.

Bhatt and Sengupta lose the plot totally in the latter half of the film, which honestly becomes embarrassing to watch.  Like an obedient child, Alia obliged her father’s call to take a Sadak 2, but not even the star could revive her ageing father’s career.

We use the word ageing for a reason. Long time ago, your reviewer once heard Mahesh Bhatt talk about the limitations that come with age, how he could no longer contribute as a director with the same energy as before.  So, he preferred to let young minds take the director’s reign, while he was content in being a producer.  And it appears that perhaps Bhatt erred in his judgment of directing Sadak 2. There’s an element of believability in the early part, but Bhatt falls back on the poor tropes, that worked for him in the 80s, 90s, but it has no takers now.  Despite the original borrowing plot and scenes, Sadak [1991] had an intensity, a fear factor around it.  Bhatt though loses his way as Sadak 2 leads to a dead end.

Unfortunately, Sanjay Dutt’s career is at the crossroads again with Sadak 2 staring down the barrel.  From being a simple kaali peeli (Mumbai’s Padmini /Fiat taxis] driver in 1991, Ravi now runs Pooja Tours and Travels that thrives in providing ‘service with security’. He now drives an Audi.  Quite an upgrade in status, but his life has taken a turn for the worse. The seasoned actor is fairly competent but is let down by poor writing.

Pooja Bhatt simply justifies the ‘spiritual’ successor billing here. Gulshan Grover hams it up as Mahesh Bhatt’s bad man Dilip Haathkata (severed hand). Well, there’s nothing new about the hamming. To his credit, Mohan Kapoor beats Grover here as the laughable cop Rajesh. Priyanka Bose gives the two men a serious run for their money. 

The only thing amusing about Aditya Roy Kapur is his pet owl Kumbhkaran – the sleeping giant from Ramayana. You wouldn’t blame poor Kumbhkaran for sleeping all day if he had an owner like Vishal [Kapur]. 

While Maharani was a scary stereotype of eunuchs but the late Sadashiv Amrapurkar had played it so menacingly in Sadak [1991].  Gyaan Prakaash [Makarand Deshpande] is no Maharani, but there’s nothing intimidating about the fake godman. More than any fake godman, he reminds you more of Anupam Kher’s aghori avatar in Nigahen [1989]. And both men are equally poor.  Seeing Gyaan Prakaash in drag though rekindles hilarious memories of Baba Ramdev trying to flee in a saree to save himself from the police crackdown on protesters at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan in 2011. 

As seen from the likes of Bapu Asaram and Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan, these fake godmen were tough to take down in the wake of the shielding by their violent followers.  Remarkably, Gyaan Prakaash is said to have 196,000 followers, but when trouble arrives, there’s just a handful of bodyguards.  Where did his firangi followers disappear? Also, the bodyguards in suits fire one bullet and then wait for the ageing Sanjay Dutt to return fire, of course killing them instantly.

We see different shades to Jisshu Sengupta who is impeccable as the business tycoon Yogesh Desai. The popular Bengali actor takes further strides in Hindi cinema.  Despite the poor narrative, Sengupta can walk away with his head held high. He’s the lone saving grace of Sadak 2.

Before its release, Sadak 2 and the Bhatts found themselves embroiled in the nepotism storm whipped up by Vishesh Films discovery Kangana Ranaut in the aftermath of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.  That was very unfortunate, but aggrieved netizens vent their frustration by trolling the Bhatts with Sadak 2 trailer getting a staggering 12 million plus dislikes on YouTube.  Honestly, the trailer was anything but impressive. Unfortunately, with the film turning out to be a bad joke, those 12 million dislikes now look justified.  Sadak 2 is a poor sequel, and you fear whether director Mahesh Bhatt’s career has reached a dead end.

Sadak 2 is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

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