Are you all mad at me for making you watch this dumb dumb movie? Or are you grateful that I challenged you to watch a super entertaining movie? Or did you all ignore this film and no one will read the review?
Well, this was a movie that happened! The biggest thing about it is that it was definitely A Movie. Not A Film with deep thoughts and high aspirations. And not a movie lowercase, which never really went over the top or tried to entertain you. No, it was something super bright and loud and big to watch on the big screen. And it’s been a while since we had something like that!
Jagga Jasoos-A Film
Tubelight-a movie (lower case, the songs and the colors and everything just wasn’t big enough)
Munna Michael-a 3 hour audition tape
But this, this was A Movie! I’m not saying it was a good movie, definitely not that. But if you have been wanting something with great costumes and over the top acting and lots of songs and a ridiculous plot and huge houses, then this is the one for you!
It definitely could have been better. I don’t want it to be a different thing than it was, I’m not going to say “oh the plot was ridiculous, the people were too rich, the acting was over the top”. Because this is an Anees Bazmee movie, it’s supposed to have a ridiculous plot and rich people and over the top acting. To say it should be otherwise would be like wanting a dog to turn into a cat. I just want it to be the best possible version of an Anees Bazmee movie. And it wasn’t quite there.
Arjun, for one thing. He was okay, but he was also supposed to be the main character, the one who was onscreen almost all the time, and he just wasn’t entertaining enough for that. I needed him to go bigger and bigger and bigger. And he kept his performance kind of small. If this had been, say, 2 States, he would have been perfect. Micro-facial expressions in indicate emotions, hesitant line delivery when he was nervous, a shy smile, delightful! But it isn’t 2 States, it’s a big dumb comedy, I need him jumping off the wall and leaping over furniture and sobbing hysterically.
The cast as a whole was uneven like that. Anil was great (obviously, he is always great), perfectly over the top and amusing. Pavan Malhotra was the other stand out for me. Really good at the small comic touches, the way he tilted his head, or used his hand would suddenly turn a line from so-so to hilarious. Ratna Pathak was perhaps taking this role a little too seriously. Great line deliveries and all (duh, it’s Ratna Pathak!) but not quite funny enough. Kirron Kher might have done it better.
The surprise stand out for me was Ileana d’Cruz! I am liking her more and more. She had several scenes toe to toe with Ratna and was able to make an impression, even be funnier than her. And she was definitely funnier and better onscreen than Arjun. Very confident performance, every line almost made me laugh.
Our other heroine, Athiya Shetty, not so much. And they must have known that, so they split her role, sort of. There is a third heroine I don’t remember seeing promoted that much, Neha Sharma. She gets all the big funny angry scenes in the Arjun 2 storyline, while Athiya can just sort of stand there.
The plot is the plot, as crazy as you would expect from this kind of comedy. The one tiny flaw is that the obvious solution is one we, in the audience, had come up with by about an hour in and were waiting for the characters to figure out because it was the only possible finale. But otherwise, it’s the plot you would expect. Lots of misunderstandings and confusion and schemes that fail.
One thing I always really like about Anees Bazmee movies is that everyone is doing things with the best intentions. Versus, say, Sajid Khan movies where there is a trickster trying to con money or get out of responsibilities or something like that. No, in these movies, it is a couple in love and their relatives who want them to be happy, and then complications ensue. For instance, in this one an engagement is broken by the girl’s family not because of an insult towards them or anything but because “this is our daughter, we can’t give her to someone we don’t trust”. Anil Kapoor is trying to maintain the peace and keep everyone happy because he loves them all and wants them to be happy, not to trick them out of an inheritance or something. And the whole cousin-twin thing is a complication simply because they have so many relatives who all love them so much and they are torn between those responsibilities. It’s just nice, these are nice nice people.
Oh, and also it’s Christmas. This isn’t related to anything in the movie, they just happened to film at Christmas time in England. Which is smart, Christmas is a really pretty time to film, lots of lights and decorations in the background and all of that. Just made me want peppermint spice lattes and coats, and then I walked out of the theater into the blazing July heat.
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Okay! Whole plot straightened out and explained in two paragraphs:
There are 4 siblings, oldest sister Ratna Pathak who raised her brothers, oldest brother Pavan Malhotra, middle brother Sanjay Kapoor, and baby brother Anil Kapoor. Sanjay and his wife die and their identical twin sons and given to Anil Kapoor, who promptly hands the oldest Arjun 1 to be raised in England by Ratna Pathak and her husband, and the younger Arjun 2 to be raised in Chandigarh by Pavan Malhotra and his wife. 27 years later, Arjun 1 in London is in love with Ileana D’Cruz but scared to tell his fierce mother Ratna that he has fallen in love (especially after Ileana accidentally insults her, not knowing she is Arjun 1’s mother). Arjun 2 is in Chandigarh and in love with Neha Sharma, but scared to tell his fierce father Pavan Malhotra (especially considering Neha Sharma’s character is Muslim). Arjun 1 follows Ileana to Chandigarh when she comes home after school and starts working at Pavan’s restaurant and living in that family home. He tricks Arjun 2 into being sent to London to be engaged to Athiya Shetty, the family friend of the London family who he has been intended for his whole life. Arjun 2 arrives in London and explains to Anil, his cool young uncle, that he doesn’t want to be engaged because he has a girlfriend back in the Punjab. Anil manages to blow up the engagement by making Arjun appear to be a drug addict. But it gets out of hand when Pavan takes offense at the implication his son is a drug addict and Ratna tries to calm him down and sides with Athiya Shetty’s family, and brother and sister fall out. Pavan takes Arjun 2 back to the Punjab and quickly finds him a new bride, to prove that he can marry even better than the London girl who turned him down, and of course that bride turns out to be Ileana!
Meanwhile, Arjun 1’s engagement to Athiya is now settled. Anil tries to help by arranging for both weddings to take place in London so at least everyone is in one place. He proposes a series of schemes, starting with getting Athiya to call of the wedding herself. But that fails because Athiya says it isn’t her problem, she will have faith in God and let it work itself out. Arjun 2 decides he agrees with this philosophy, and he isn’t helping Arjun 1 and Ileana any more either. So Arjun 1 brings Neha Sharma to London to confront him and get him back on board with breaking the engagements. The two couples plan to elope, but as they are leaving, Athiya’s family arrives and insists on making Neha their guest instead of her going back to a hotel (the cover story for the elopement). The night before the wedding, they are all planning to elope, Ileana with Arjun 1, and Arjun 2 with Athiya (who he has realized he loves and vice versa), and Neha Sharma with Athiya’s brother (who she is now in love with). But Anil Kapoor arrives and stops it. He had a vision of his dead brother Sanjay, reminding him of how heartbroken everyone would be if they were publicly shamed and disrespected by an elopement. So he no longer supports it, and he insists that they show up for the wedding the next day. Finally, as a last minute plan, the two brothers/cousins come up the idea of trading places for the marriage ceremony. Which just causes more confusion, because at the wedding hall the truth comes out, and Anil convinces Ratna and Pawan to forgive each other, and to understand what their children want. So the two Arjuns have to come up with an excuse to go off into another room and change clothes again, then come out and get married. HAPPY ENDING.
So, okay, this isn’t a totally uninteresting plot. For one thing, the mixing of the family relationships is handled very well. Because Arjuns 1 and 2 are technically sons of a beloved dead brother, as well as adoptive children, there is an extra closeness and love between the various households related to them. The engagements cannot be finalized without all the adults of the previous generation, Pawan and Anil and Ratna, all present. And neither can the marriages or the engagement ceremonies.
Also handled well is the idea of brothers who call each other brother, but were raised in different households. We can see the similarity in personalities under the skin, while Arjun 1 may act all cool and modern, he is just as scared of admitting his love story to his parents as Arjun 2 is. And while Arjun 2 may appear all shy and traditional, he is just as capable of finding a girlfriend as Arjun 1.
The whole international part of it is really fascinating. We jump 6 months and go from Arjun 1 and Ileana being all cool in London to both of them living in Chandigarh. And there is no culture shock sequence. London is like Chandigarh and Chandigarh is like London. And especially for the Arjuns who were raised in one place but are equally tied to the other (since half their remaining closest relatives live there). In the same way, the second half of the film takes place almost entirely in London, and there is never a moment of somebody seeming lost or asking where all the cows are or anything. It’s something that could have easily been used for comedy and they just didn’t think it was believable any more, even in this totally ridiculous comedy. Although they did have a bit of a nod in that direction with the white servant of Anil Kapoor who he has taught to speak Punjabi. But even there, it was an aware nod, pointing out that this is a ridiculous way to handle a combined cultural identity.
Oh, and the Sikh identity is neat too. When we learn that Neha Sharma is Muslim, almost the first thing Arjun 2 does is clarify that it isn’t her being Muslim in particular that is the problem, it’s that she isn’t from the exact same community as his family. It’s not an anti-Muslim thing, it’s a pro-Sikh thing. That’s the line they draw through out, as I said in the podcast, comedy comes from specificity. So they picked a specific community to use, and that’s all there is to it. Neha Sharma still gets to marry a Sikh (although not Anil Kapoor as I thought might be possible for a moment, she wasn’t that lucky), so this movie isn’t against interreligious marriages. It just thought it would be funny to have all the double takes about our “good boy” falling for the most rebellions option possible. And then falling for the arranged marriage “good girl” after all.
Speaking of that good girl, let’s talk about performances for a moment. Anil was brilliant (duh). Ratna was good, I’ve seen her in parts that fit her better, but she was good. Pawan was really good. Arjun was……okay. As the start of our late summer string of double roles, he kind of set the bar. And I don’t see the others having a hard time crossing it. Even Siddharth. Although Siddharth’s script looks better too (based only on trailers). But really, Arjun just didn’t do as much as he could have with these characters and this role. You want to go big big BIG in every way, so we can really see the difference between them, and he just didn’t. Ileana, on the other hand, really got it. And so did Neha Sharma! Which surprised me, but I guess she has been around for awhile now, makes sense she will have learned something.
Over all thought, this was a “not as good as it needed to be” movie. The music was good, but not good enough to save the film. Some of the acting was good, but not as good as it could have been. The script had some clever bits, but not clever enough to save it. And so on and so on. In every way in every place something was just missing. Well, except for Anil. He was perfect.