What a fun movie! Sure, not all the jokes landed for me, but a fair number of them did. And the cast was clearly having a great time. And most of all, the filmmakers knew what they were doing! I could relax and let go and be aware that I was in capable hands. And to talk about that, I need to get into SPOILERS. Which kind of matter for this movie, so if you think you might see it in theaters, maybe read the No Spoilers review instead.
Whole plot in two paragraphs:
Ajay Devgan, Shreyas Talpade, Arshad Warsi, Tusshar Kapoor, and Kunal Khemu all grew up together in an orphanage. When they were boys, they found a baby outside the gates and brought her inside, and then made her into their special project, taking care of her until they got older and, after a series of fights between the boys, gave up on being “good” and ran away from the orphanage. Years later, the two groups of boys (Ajay and Shreyas versus Arshad, Tusshar, and Kunal) are still battling. Now they are battling over land, Ajay and Shreyas clearing squatters on behalf of Sanjay Mishra, and the others scarring away tenants by convincing them their mansions are haunted on behalf of Mukesh Tiwari. But it all ends when they learn that the founder of their orphanage is dead, and they come together to attend his memorial service. While there, they meet Tabu, their old friend from childhood, the librarian who can see ghosts. And the colonel who has the house next door, and his beautiful young housekeeper, Parineeti. And Prakash Raj, the developer who is going to move the orphanage to Bangalore and develop the land. Ajay and Shreyas return home, but are haunted by a spirit who takes on the voice of Nana Pataker. They call Tabu, who suggests that they move into the colonel’s Bungalow with her and Parineeti for a while. At the same time, Arshad, Tusshar, and Kunal are hired to clear out the house, and so also rent a room there. The two groups battle and battle before finally coming together when the evil spirit possesses Tusshar, and they realize they really love each other. With all their support, Ajay plans to tell his feelings to Parineeti. But before he can, the others start to put together clues and learn that Parineeti IS A GHOST!!!!!
Not just our 5 leads, but also Sanjay Mishra and Mukesh Tiwari and Johnny Lever (caretaker of the orphanage) end up trapped in the house with Parineeti who is trying to explain herself. Finally, Tabu arrives and takes charge. She explains that Parineeti is the grown up little girl they used to take care of at the orphanage. The 5 leads can see her but no one else can, because of their connection since childhood. And Parineeti tells her story. She was adopted by the colonel and his wife. There was an accident after she grew up, the colonel lost his sight and his wife died. But slowly they recovered, and she was happy with her life when Neal Nitin Mukesh appeared, the nephew of the founder of the orphanage. He romanced her, everything was perfect. Until she came to surprise him with their wedding cards and overheard him killing the orphanage founder so that he could inherit the land the orphanage was on. Prakash Raj witnessed it, but did not participate. Parineeti confronted him, and Neal Nitin Mukesh killed her too, again with Prakash Raj being shocked and not participating. Parineeti’s body was put in her car and thrown over a cliff, she returned as a ghost and was greeted by Tabu, her best friend since childhood who could see her. Tabu has been orchestrating this whole thing, once they realized the 5 boys could see her, she arranged all sorts of reasons for them to come together and end their feud so they could work together and avenge Parineeti. After a brief freak out, the boys realize that they still love Parineeti, the little girl they helped raise, and want to avenge her. They plan to set up a fake haunting to scare Prakash Raj, the weak link, into confessing. Tabu and Parineeti work with them, but just as the plan is about to succeed, Neal Nitin Mukesh arrives and stops it. Parineeti gets upset and drags him around and almost kills him, but then stops herself at the last minute and hands him over to the police instead. In the end, all 5 boys and Tabu bid farewell to Parineeti at the same gate where they found her as a baby, and she disappears in a burst of golden light.
Well, that was long! And I didn’t even get into character details. Ajay is afraid of the dark, and ghosts. Shreyas Talpade has a lisp. Arshad Warsi is an inveterate practical joker. Tusshar Kapoor can’t speak clearly and makes do with hand gestures. Kunal Khemu… I honestly don’t remember. Something! And Johnny Lever keeps forgetting what he is doing in the middle of doing it, like switching from a eulogy to a birthday speech, until he is slapped and remembers.
The details don’t matter, because they are all just part of a grand structure. We have the prologue with Tabu, that establishes her as a true medium, and the rules of ghosts in this universe, they stay because of unfinished business, they are telekinetic but only Tabu can actually see them. And once Tabu helps them, they go away in golden light. After the prologue, we move right into the childhood flashback with Tabu’s narration guiding us. We are introduced to the orphanage, the house next door, the 5 boys who grew up together, and the little girl they help raise. And then they became teenagers and ran away from home.
And we move right into their adult introductions! First, Ajay as a fierce fighter who is still afraid of the dark and reliant for emotional support on Shreyas Talpade. Then the other 3, who are still clever practical jokers, using their skills to scare away silly rich people from their luxurious mansions. And finally their still existing conflict, Arshad’s gang turning off the power at Ajay and Shreyas’ house to scare Ajay. And then boom-bip-bam, we learn that the orphanage founder is dead, they briefly reunite, we see the orphanage grounds, and are introduced to a series of mysteries. Someone in Dubai who is mentioned, the colonel next door is recently blinded, why? Beautiful Parineeti is staying in his house, who is she? And what is Prakash Raj’s real plan for the orphanage?
But rather than slow down to dig into all these mysteries, the film flips over to a different track, the 5 boys are thrown into the same house with Tabu and Parineeti sharing space, and wacky fights take place. Plus, Ajay’s little crush on Parineeti in the background. It’s all silly chaos for a good hour. And just when you are starting to feel like there should be more plot, boom! Plot!!!! Everyone is reunited and Ajay is about to confess his love to Parineeti, and suddenly we have one last burst of anarchy as they all learn Parineeti is a ghost, followed by sudden intense emotion.
This section is why Parineeti was wise to take this role. In flashback, we see her grow up as a happy young woman, fall in love, witness a murder, die herself, and then (most heartbreaking) realize that she is dead. Followed by her silent pleading eyes as she asks the men to avenge her. It’s a great ten minute section, just for her, and the kind of character drama that she would never have gotten if she’d taken the Judwaa 2 role. And for the audience, it’s a nice little moment of refreshment after all the wackiness of the previous section.
But just when it feels like it might be too sad, we switch again! With a nice little transition that intercuts the other 4 boys thinking through their feelings and reading Parineeti’s diary, with Ajay fighting off a bunch of goons. And now we are ready for another wacky plot! With the emotion behind it now to make it a little more meaningful feeling. And now the sides are all shifted. We went from the boys split in two groups with Tabu and Parineeti neutral, to all the boys versus Parineeti, and now it is all the boys plus their friends with Tabu and Parineeti coming up with a plot to catch Prakash Raj and Neal Nitin Mukesh, the true villains.
It’s just such a lovely structure!!!! Like, you could draw it out on a graph, that’s how tidy it is. Straight through to the end, villains are vanquished, but the real ending is all 5 boys together with Tabu guiding them in saying good-bye to Parineeti. This was her journey all along, baby to death with the 5 boys to support her. The romance with Ajay is dropped, but it doesn’t even feel like a mistake, it feels like the point was to structure the first half as a light comedy with romantic hijinks, and the romance was dropped along with the hijinks because the second half is something totally different.
That’s the thing about these bonkers comedies. The underlying structure has to be there, or else it will all fall apart. That was the problem with Dilwale, it felt like that structure was never fully able to work, something went wrong somewhere. But here, it all goes right. Strong structure, and then joke after joke after joke layered on top.
Joke, and songs! Not apologetic montage style songs like in Secret Superstar, songs that felt like they were almost embarrassed to exist, but full-throated whole-hearted songs. Colorful, tons of extras, unembarrassed happy tunes. So unembarrassed that they reached deep into the Ajay Devgn filmography to remix my All Time FAVORITE Ajay Devgn song!!!!
Most people remember Ishq for “Mr. Lova Lova”. But for me, it’s all about “Neend Churiya Mere”. Well, and also about it being one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life, but in a very entertaining way.
Oh, and the brief love song for Parineeti and Neal Nitin Mukesh, that’s a “Maine Pyar Kiya” remix. Again, unembarrassed to be over the top, you can’t get much more romantic than “Maine Pyar Kiya”. Well, you could go to the original, “I Just Called to Say I Love you”, but “Maine Pyar Kiya” is pretty good.
So, yes, this is exactly the movie they set out to make with no miss steps. I’m not saying it is a great movie in the grand scheme of things, but it is just what it is intended to be. No short cuts, no mistakes, no strange out of place moments. In that way, it’s actually better than Secret Superstar.