Keeping all the debates and the drama aside, I was excited for Sadak 2 to release not only because it was the sequel to a Mahesh Bhatt classic from the 90s, but also because it was going to be the first film directed by Bhatt in over 20 years. The last movie he directed came out in 1999 but sadly it seems like he’s still stuck in the time warp.
To try to make sense out of Sadak 2 you really need to watch Sadak (1991) as it gives closure to Ravi’s story arc and tells you about his time after the events of the first film. Portions from the previous film are also played to give the users a strong dose of nostalgia. Both movies feature typical Mahesh Bhatt characters who are all quite complex and demented. While Sanjay Dutt was front and center in the first movie with Pooja Bhatt playing a mere damsel in distress role, the second movie does have Alia Bhatt and Aditya Roy Kapoor who are somewhat more vocal and have a little more personality and story than the characters in the previous film. However, they don’t really feel like the co-leads in the movie as it is Sanjay Dutt who is driving the narrative forward all through the movie to such an extent that the two are not even a part of the climax sequence.
What the first movie had in the form of the brilliant Sadashiv Amrapurkar playing the role of the transgender pimp Maharani as the antagonist was lacking from the sequel (there’s a subtle hat tip to his character in this movie too). While Makarand Deshpande is a great actor and the cult was shown as quite an eerie setup, the antagonist in the sequel just didn’t feel convincing enough but was more of a caricature of what he was supposed to be. Just like the 90s, the treatment of serious issues such as mental illness, suicide, and depression was greatly trivialized, amplified by the unfortunate reality around us. To further drive my point of why Mahesh Bhatt is stuck in a time warp, Gulshan Grover shows up in the movie with a typical 90s villain vibe (along with a very 90s name too) and is met by Sanjay Dutt with a very 90s joke.
Talking of the story, Sadak 2 (much like the 1991 movie) had the classic 90s ‘stuff just happens’ narrative as characters just want to do random things to fit the plot rather than them having a story or clear motivations for that. While most of the characters in the film have been sketched really well, it felt like they were each acting in a world of their own tied very loosely into one universe. To put this into perspective, had the character of Aditya Roy Kapoor completely been replaced by just the owl he was hanging out with, it would have made no difference to the story at all. Makarand Deshpande as the cult leader didn’t feel evil or dominating enough. Priyanka Bose who plays Alia’s step-mother also makes for an interesting character and Anil George (last seen as the bearded ‘Lala’ in Mirzapur) also makes his presence felt but neither of them plays a major part in the film’s story.
The interactions between Sanjay Dutt and Alia Bhatt almost drove me away from the film and had me checking my WhatsApp messages while the conversations between Alia’s father and mother in the movie really don’t add to the narrative at all. Over the past thirty years, Sanjay Dutt has evolved and matured as an actor and plays the role of Ravi quite well and is the only saving grace of the sequel. Mercifully, unlike the first film, he wasn’t crucified in Sadak 2 (I’m sure this time the viewers felt it was their turn), though the amount of blood he lost in this movie was perhaps even more than he did in the previous one.
To wrap it up, for anyone who hasn’t watched Sadak (1991) or is not quite the Sanjay Dutt fan, this movie is perhaps not worth the time and effort. But for the rare few like me who did enjoy the 90s chaos that the OG Sadak had, this does give you a sense of satisfaction in the end as it is very rare in Bollywood for movies to get a sequel after so many years. Given how character-driven Sadak was, Sadak 2 is a good conclusion to the story of Taxi Driver Ravi. Personally, I found Sadak 2 to be somewhat better than the first movie which felt very linear and a one-man show, but a strong and motivated antagonist like Maharani is clearly lacking in the sequel.