Lateef: The King of Crime – Lacking in tension and thrills

Film: Lateef: The King of Crime

Cast: Hameed Khan, Aryan Vaid, Raju Mavani, Mushtaq Khan, Bharti Sharma

Director: Sharique Minhaz

Abdul Lateef, the name which probably, still stirs up the narrow lanes of Kalapur in old Ahmedabad, even 14 years after the don was killed in an encounter, has been resurrected in Bollywood, in a sort of bio-pic titled ‘Lateef:The king Of Crime.’

This is  director Sharique (Chand Bujh Gaya) Minhaj’s second attempt at film making and basically represents a novice’s idea of a guts and glory crime caper.  So if you are expecting a ‘Gangs of Wasseypur,’ just forget it. This one doesn’t even come close.

It’s not that the screenplay writer or director doesn’t try to lend it oblique authenticity by throwing up similar sounding names to those who are in the news for all the wrong reasons. So Vanzara becomes Banjara, Sohrabuddin becomes Sohrab and many other names and incidents sound similar to those that grabbed headlines in the recent inglorious past.

The lead role is essayed by Hameed Khan, son of MLA Farooq Sheikh who represents Kalapur constituency, the very area Lateef lorded over in his heydays spanning the 80’s and 90’s. Minhaz’s fledgling attempt uses fact and fiction in equal measure to draw out its lead character’s descent into crime and criminality.

A small school boy falls prey to illegal liquor traders in the ghettos of Ahmedabad and eventually grows up to be become the don of Gujarat -foraying into kidnapping, land-grabbing and flesh trade. Lateef has an in with builders, cops and politicians and manages to also be revered by his community for his ability to keep them protected. As his clout grows so does his infamy and he soon becomes a target for rival dons and politicians alike -Which eventually leads to his elimination through encounter at the hands of an undercover cop.

Though the story itself is not without its fair share of brutality and firepower, the way Minhaz treats it, it stays lame and unprepossessing right to the very end. The very vitality of a crime thriller is sorely missing from the narrative. And the surprise denouement at the climax is thrown up out-of-the-blue, leaving you puzzled by the director’s attempt at forcing in suspense when none was needed. There is absolutely no tension to be had in the flaccid execution and the momentum is hedgy rather than edgy.

The narrative remains flat right throughout its uneventful runtime. Hameed Khan as Lateef, with his badly designed wig and penchant for whites, has little to offer in way of expression or physical performance. The others inhabiting this tepid drama have nothing exciting to offer either. Quite disappointing, this!

Johnson Thomas

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