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A decade of Race: 5 reasons why the Abbas-Mustan film still thrills us

The film with Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna in the lead roles had several things going for it.

Keyur Seta

Director duo Abbas and Mustan are known for their thrillers, usually with an element of suspense. Race (2008) became something of a turning point in the career of the brothers. Not just because the film became a hit — they had delivered many hits already — but also because they raised the bar for crafting and narrating an Abbas-Mustan thriller. From here on, they have maintained the style.

The film starring Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Bipasha Basu, Anil Kapoor, Katrina Kaif and Sameera Reddy was released exactly 10 years ago on 21 March 2008 (how time flies).

On the tenth anniversary of Race, we bring you five reasons why the film worked at the box office and is still fondly remembered.

Twisted Storyline

Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna in a scene from Race

Audiences were quite used to thrillers in which something unexpected or, at times, shocking takes place, either just before the interval or near the climax. But Race kept throwing up surprises at regular intervals. Most of these twists genuinely took the audience by surprise and, needless to say, kept it hooked.

For this, screenwriter Shiraz Ahmed deserves a pat. To be sure, the twist relating to the death of Ranvir Singh (Saif Ali Khan) does appear a trifle far-fetched, but deft handling by the directors ensured it looked quite convincing.

Grey Shades Galore

Bipasha Basu, Anil Kapoor and Akshaye Khanna

All the main characters of a film having grey shades was quite unheard of 10 years ago in mainstream Hindi cinema. In Race, it took the audience some time to work out who the main villain was, since every character in the film has some ulterior motive.

In a way, this made the film similar to the Indian epic Mahabharat. Though the Pandavas are generally seen to be righteous, even they were forced to use deceit to win against the evil Kauravas. Ranvir does the same here, the only difference being that he and Rajiv (Khanna) are brothers, not cousins.

Look a bit harder and you will realize that detective Robert D’Costa (Kapoor) is similar to Krishna. He does not take part in the action yet ensures victory for the virtuous. 

Smart Dialogues

Akshaye Khanna and Saif Ali Khan, who play brothers, with Katrina Kaif

Race became all the more enjoyable because of the witty yet meaningful dialogues by Anurag Prapanna, mostly mouthed by Ranvir.

Try this: ‘Tum mujhse kabhi jeet nahin paye kyunki tum humesha mujhe haraane ki sochte the. Aur main kabhi haara nahin kyunki main humesha jeetne ki sochta tha [You could never win against me because you were always looking for ways to defeat me, and I never lost because I was always focused on winning]’.

Or how about: ‘Mujhe haraakar koi meri jaan bhi le jaye, mujhe manzoor hai. Lekin dhoka denewale ko main dobara mauka nahin deta [Defeat me fairly and kill me, I wouldn't mind. But I never forgive those who try to cheat me].’

Such dialogues simply added to the impact of the film's narrative. The car blast after the second example is, in particular, superbly timed and gave the audience a thrill.

Rocking Album 

It is not often that every song in a film's album turns out to be impressive. Composer Pritam achieved this rare feat with Race. The two versions of the title song, ‘Pehli Nazar Mein,’ ‘Zara Zara Touch Me’ and ‘Khwab Dekhe Jhoote Moote’ are tracks that you took home with you despite the film being an action thriller.

It is also important to mention the background music scored by Salim-Sulaiman. It added to the thrill and mystery in a number of sequences. The signature alaap sung in the background is haunting even 10 years on. 

Technical Gloss

Around 2006, mainstream Hindi cinema had started opening up to advances in cine technology. Desi action flicks had started getting a touch of Hollywood class. After Don (2006) and Dhoom 2 (2006), it was Race that carried the legacy forward. The car race sequences and stunts upped the excitement quotient. The camerawork (Ravi Yadav) and editing too had an international touch to them. In fact, going by the quality of the product, the film doesn’t look 10 years old.

Abbas-Mustan came up with Race 2 in 2013 but could not quite match their original. Director Remo D’Souza is helming Race 3, scheduled for release on 15 June this year. The film stars Salman Khan. Can he race ahead of Race? Time will tell.