Just when you thought you’ve had enough sifting through the unalloyed dross that Bollywood has been dishing out throughout the year, in comes Baadshaho. Director Milan Luthria tries to pepper it with a patina of wisecracks, or even an apophthegm such as “Jab maut samne ho, toh zindagi ki keemat pata chalti hai” and so on. Yet, a puny story coupled with some insipid on-screen performance easily outweighs them all. Luthria returns to his old stomping ground (after a four year hiatus) of period drama based on crime and thievery with his latest outing. Barely a quarter of an hour into the movie, and you can effortlessly fathom where this is heading. Ileana D’Cruz raises the curtains as she is introduced as Rani Gitanjali of Rajasthan, and how the 1973 case of ‘Emergency’ lands her behind the bars. Frantic about the confiscation of her gold possessions, she turns to Bhawani Singh essayed by Ajay Devgn, to safeguard it. And even before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’, the two are swapping saliva on the terraces of the former’s royal palace! Well, that escalated quickly. Baadshaho has all the style and flair to whip up a taut drama reminiscent of the 70s, but where it terribly falls short is a concrete storyline to tread on. The age-old narrative of a heist carried out by a group of spoilt-brats on a truck laced with heaps of gold feels predictable to the point of exhaustion. Having limped for nearly two hours and thirty minutes, it then comes to an annoyingly contrived climax. The dusty, Rajasthani-colour of the movie is simply a treat to the eyes, though. The enchanting sand-dunes of Jodhpur and visual effects are excellently crafted, courtesy NY VFXWAALA who score full brownie points there. The scenes of one part of the palace blowing up early on, along with the landmines during an altercation in the climax are VFX-heavy. However, the effects are nigh perfect when they produce droplets of gold. Also, the penultimate scene of the movie where Ileana’s character drowns under a deluge of sand is just eye-catching! But Baadshaho, despite boasting a star cast, is further bruised by some poor performances from the leading ladies. Whilst Ileana is criminally underutilized, she’s a let-down even in her scant appearances on the screen. Esha Gupta on the other hand, is roped in only to add gloss to the celluloid. Besides Ajay’s terrific depiction as a rough-yet-honest hoodlum, another point of mention is the cheeky banters between Emraan Hashmi (as Dalia) and Sanjai Mishra (as Tikla). They don’t fail to tickle your funny bones and provide some reprieve. Vidyut Jammwal is worth noticing too. Milan Luthria has given us gems in the form of Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai and The Dirty Picture in the past, but this one is streets away from matching their calibre. And the makers have themselves to blame for its undoing. In a year that has produced nothing but disappointment for the film industry, Baadshaho joins the conveyor belt of big-budget duds.