Sanjay Dutt was the best thing about Mahesh Bhatt’s Sadak in 1991 and he is the best thing about its sequel too. Sadak 2, which is being streamed on Disney+ Hotstar, has been directed by the veteran filmmaker and co-written by him and Suhrita Sengupta. Ravi, the insomniac and fearless taxi driver in the first movie, is older and more melancholic. Pooja (Pooja Bhatt), whom Ravi freed from the clutches of a fearsome pimp, is now an artistically shot photograph on a wall. Shattered by her death, Ravi attempts to erase himself too, but finds renewed purpose in a young woman’s mission to expose a charlatan godman.

Aarya (Alia Bhatt) is attempting to rouse public opinion against Gyan Prakash (Makarand Deshpande), a campy guru who dresses like a character from an Orientalist ballet. Gyan Prakash has all but hypnotised Aarya’s father Yogesh (Jisshu Sengupta) and stepmother Nandini (Priyanka Bose). The godman also has the police and gangsters in his pocket.

Team Aarya comprises Ravi and her guitar-wielding boyfriend Vishal (Aditya Roy Kapur). Vishal proves to be pretty useless in protecting Aarya, and it’s Ravi who springs to her aid whenever required.

The overstretched and sluggishly paced 133-minute film does itself no favours by overselling Gyan Prakash’s villainy. The journey that Ravi, Aarya and Vishal take is mostly bereft of obstacles. Where is the army of fanatics hunting Aarya down? They can be found in the neighbouring platform MX Player, where the similarly themed series Aashram is being streamed.

Alia Bhatt, Sanjay Dutt and Aditya Roy Kapur in Sadak 2 (2020). Courtesy Vishesh Films/Disney+ Hotstar.

When evil finally presents itself, no one is happier than Ravi. The grin that breaks out on his face when he finally sees a weapon is infectious. The best moment is when a gun is pressed against Ravi’s head and he blissfully says, the doors of heaven have finally opened to me.

Ravi is good at being passive and weepy too. The spirit of the Ravi from Sadak is very much alive in the second movie. Sanjay Dutt provides continuity between the films and gives a full-throttle performance that compensates for the discernible lack of energy among his co-stars.

Alia Bhatt goes through the paces, but her naturalistic acting style and millennial manner don’t suit this movie’s 1990s-vintage dramatics. Priyanka Bose tries to shake things up – there’s an unintentionally hilarious scene where she enters a room with vermillion plastered over her forehead for reasons best known to her. Jisshu Sengupta hams it up, while Makarand Deshpande struggles to emerge from under the shadow of Sadashiv Amrapurkar’s loathsome villain from the original movie.

It hardly helps that the sequel has several flashbacks to its predecessor. The frequent reminders of Sadak’s unselfconsciously florid ways make the follow-up even more anodyne and listless by comparison. The only one who gets the raison d’etre of Sadak 2 is the actor who glowered and bashed his way to glory in Sadak. Ravi’s maudlin aching for his lost love, his touching affection for Aarya, and his solo march on the godman prove that Ravi is very much around – older, not necessarily wiser, and still a full-blown kamikaze taxi driver.

Sadak 2 (2020).