If you like extreme hand-to-hand fight sequences wrapped in a crime drama, you will find John Abraham in top physical form as in the latest Bollywood action thriller Rocky Handsome, a remake of the 2010 Korean film The Man From Nowhere and deals with some very tough issues of exploitation.
The Film: Rocky Handsome
The Hindi film closely parallels the original Korean version, with the addition of several item numbers, a more fleshed-out backstory for our hero, and some visual changes (pixelation and inference) in some key scenes.
The story follows the melancholy and mysterious Kabir Ahlawat (John Abraham) a.k.a. "Rocky Handsome" who plays a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse as he tries to rescue an eight-year-old neighbor girl (Diya Chalwad) kidnapped by drug mafia also involved in human organ trafficking.
The girl shares a special bond with Kabir, one forged out of their mutual stories of heartbreak and the need to connect with someone who cares. Neither truly understands how deeply their connection is until Kabir publicly disavows the little girl outside her school. Later she confronts Kabir about this and her words hit a nerve. When she is kidnapped, Kabir pursues her abductors with unrelenting persistence - and he takes them down, one by one.
John Abraham is in his element as the enigmatic Kabir who embraces this personal mission knowing that only he can find and bring the girl home.
The mafia features a host of bad guys who each have their own strengths; but none are as calculating as Kevin Pereira, played by director Nishikant Kamat, and his maniac brother (Teddy Maurya). The brothers kidnap, enslave and abuse children and eliminate anyone who is perceived as a hindrance to their work. They use Kabir to set up and brutally take down their boss.
Kabir's quiet rampage as he confronts members of the abusive criminal network continues to escalate as time marches on and he seems no closer to rescuing the little girl. In his final battle he releases his rage and leverages his military training and knowledge of human anatomy to fully incapacitate his foes.
The story is dark, dismal, and brutal.
But perhaps this is required for a film that also shines a light on a very deadly, but less discussed, aspect associated with human trafficking.
John Abraham has never shied away from taking on powerful films with strong messages - films like Water, Kabul Express and Madras Cafe.
In this case, while the issue of drugs is the entry point, the film goes a step further to look at the more deadly issue of human organ trafficking.
The Issue: The Global Trade in Human Organs
Snopes.com has long debunked the urban myth email about drugged travelers who awaken in ice-filled bathtubs only to discover one of their kidneys has been harvested by organ thieves.
Sadly, however, human organ trafficking is an activity that is very real and on the rise.
The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking addresses the issue of the trade in human organ trafficking by explaining:
Trafficking in organs is a crime that occurs in three broad categories. Firstly, there are cases where traffickers force or deceive the victims into giving up an organ. Secondly, there are cases where victims formally or informally agree to sell an organ and are cheated because they are not paid for the organ or are paid less than the promised price. Thirdly, vulnerable persons are treated for an ailment, which may or may not exist and thereupon organs are removed without the victim's knowledge. The vulnerable categories of persons include migrants, especially migrant workers, homeless persons, illiterate persons, etc. It is known that trafficking for organ trade could occur with persons of any age. Organs which are commonly traded are kidneys, liver and the like; any organ which can be removed and used, could be the subject of such illegal trade.
Trafficking in organ trade is an organized crime, involving a host of offenders. The recruiter who identifies the vulnerable person, the transporter, the staff of the hospital/ clinic and other medical centres, the medical professionals, the middlemen and contractors, the buyers, the banks where organs are stored are all involved in the racket. It is a fact that the entire racket is rarely exposed and therefore, the dimensions are yet to be appropriately fathomed.
In the 2012 article "Vera's Kidney, Walter's Money: Desperation, Greed and the Global Organ Trade", Der Spiegel reporters highlighted the global kidney trade with the following graphic:
There have been a number of recent efforts to document the issue of the sale of human organ transplants - both legal and illegal - including:
- Iranian Kidney Bargain Sale (2006). With an official kidney referral agency as the backdrop, "Iranian Kidney Bargain Sale" follows young Iranians through the organ trade process: from their first encounter to surgery and kidney removal.
- Tales from the Organ Trade (2013). An award-winning HBO documentary takes a gritty and unflinching descent into the shadowy world of organ trafficking, introducing us to the street-level brokers, the rogue surgeons and the those willing to sacrifice a slice of their own bodies for cash. And on the other side, we see the world of the desperate patients, who face the agonizing choice of either obeying the law or saving their lives.
- Human Harvest: China’s Organ Trafficking (2014). This Peabody Award-winning documentary film, directed by Vancouver filmmaker Leon Lee, follows Canadian Nobel Peace Prize nominees David Matas and David Kilgour in their investigation as to whether and how state-run hospitals in China harvested and sold organs, by killing tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience, who are mainly Falun Gong practitioners.
- Kidneyville: VICE on HBO Debrief (2015). Vikram Gandhi went to the slums of Bangladesh where a thriving black market sells just about any human organ you need for transplant.
In 2008, an attempt to curb international trade in organs and travel for commercial organ transplantation led to creation of the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism was developed. It provides ethical guidance for policy makers and doctors working in transplantation medicine.
However, the need for organ transplants continues to grow. With only 10% of just the world's kidney transplant needs being met, the World Health Organization and the Declaration of Istanbul highlight some key steps that need to be taken to help eliminate the black market and make kidney donations legal. These include:
- developing better systems of deceased organ donation;
- encouraging altruistic living kidney donation;
- preventing needs for transplantation by treating diseases that lead to organ failure such as diabetes and hepatitis;
- implementing laws that prohibit organ trading and trafficking.
In the U.S you can find out how to register to become an organ donor at www.organdonor.gov.
The film Rocky Handsome tries to entertain while also highlighting issues of trafficking, drug trade and abuse, and the global organ trade, all wrapped up in a mysterious-hero-saves-innocent-lives-and-destroys-the-evildoers saga.
Like the 2015 film Mardaani, our hero manages to uncover and destroy one small group of bad fish in a very large pond.
Rocky Handsome may not be to everyone's taste, but it does give you something important to think about.
The following playlist features the teaser and trailer for Rocky Handsome along with several making of action sequence videos.
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