Phatta Poster Nikhla Hero: Maa Reprised!

I haven’t come across a more hackneyed script in recent times – or, have I?? So hard to tell with all the tripe being dished out in the name of artistic license nowadays. Perhaps Raj Kumar Santoshi shoulda remained in hibernation a while longer. Perhaps Shahid Kapur coulda chosen the films he signs more carefully. And, with all the bleating that went on between mother and son, perhaps this movie shoulda been called “Maa Reprised” in which case I coulda skipped the dashed thing altogether!

I can give you the entire storyline in one sentence; here goes: Vishwas Rao (Shahid Kapur) wants to be a super hero but his momma Savitri (Padmini Kolhapure) wants him to be a super cop on account of how his daddy was a baaaad cop, so Vishwas gets to fulfil both the dreams by acting that he’s a cop so believably momma believes him coz he’s just a weepy lil mama’s boy at heart after all and Kaajal (Ileana DeCruz) a pesky social worker, gets conned into thinking he’s a real cop but falls in love with him anyway even when she finds out he ain’t. Phinish!

Yeah, so then there’s a whole gaggle of actors to support all this ludicrousness. Darshan Jariwala, good job as ever. So also Saurabh Shukla. And Sanjai Mishra. But these gentlemen’s acting potential has not even been tapped in this movie. However, it’s they and Kapur that somehow make the film limp across the finish line.

So new police recruits are straightaway promoted to inspectors, huh? Well, well. The police recruitment scene has been totally hammed up. Also, Ileana’s introduction scene when she bursts into the police station shows the cops lounging around snoozing, listening to songs, reading film magazines…it’s all very well to put in a disclaimer at the beginning of the film saying you don’t mean to show the cops in a bad light, but such poor caricatures of policemen are not even worthy of the paper the apology is penned on.

I was aghast right from the opening credits of the film which read – “Greatful” to Akshay Kumar. Gimme a break. After that, things only got worse (or better, depending on how you view the archetypal glass!) The place where Jogi guru lives is so obviously contrived and there’s nary a lazy finger raised to show you this ain’t a film set. Vishwas is supposed to get a-hold of a CD with the missile code only by hopping onto a dance stage. So – this is a dance troupe from Hong Kong, where the lead dancer (Nargis Fakhri)  is dressed in retro Indian cabaret! And then mummy gets angry while kidnapped by this dangerous goon gang, so she says, “chalaa jaa” and Vishwas obediently scoots, leaving mummy alone with the ruffians. Na beta, na. As for the truck full of goodies captured by the commissioner – cocaine ki boriyaan thi ya cement ki?? Tsk, tsk. Cutting (pun intended!) coke peddlers the world over such a sorry image!

Harking back to ‘Mr India,’ we have wristwatches that double up as walkie-talkies, mobile phones that give out blinding flashes of light, big round red trackers that only a moron like Gundappa (Shukla) would miss. Duhhh. Bio-chemical weapons? With this gang of blundering idiots? You gotta be kidding me! And the best is yet to come – to save India from a chemical blast, the cops are on their way in only two jeep-loads, ably headed by an aging, paunchy assistant commissioner of police. I rest my case! And it’s almost piteous when it comes to the names given to the characters – Napoleon? RDX? Dr Vinod Khanna?

And what of Kaajal? Honestly, I’d commit hara-kiri if I had a girlfriend like this! Ileana does not redeem herself with her second venture after ‘Barfi’; any other heroine could have played this role and she wouldn’t have been missed. And that about says it all.

There are a few laughs raised at the railway station when Savitri comes to meet her police inspector son, but all too quickly, the scene turns farcical. A couple of tongue-in-cheek dialogues when the real Salman Khan, playing himself, refers to Aamir Khan and Santoshi. Speaking of which and while it’s neither here nor there, this SK is looking remarkably tired and puffy-faced. What gives??

Could I be told why Savitri has been garbed in that ridiculous Pandu topi and khaki coat to show she’s a rickshaw walli? I’m sure it’s no great point to belabour – I’m just trying to clear the cobwebs from my brain! And WHY is she always seen as mascara-ed, false eyelash-ed  and manicured to the hilt? Sorry to say this but – Pandi has not aged gracefully. In most scenes, she’s either screeching or has this shell-shocked expression with eyes stretched wide for maximum impact. This role was a poor choice for a come-back. Besides, she’s gotta stop behaving as though the one most surprised by her pancake return is herself!

Story, screenplay, dialogues, direction – Raj Kumar Santoshi. Perhaps he should have just acted in this venture as well. Saved Shahid Kapur looking like a jerky marionette. And saved me a few quid!

Everything in the movie is too dashed abrupt. Ravi Yadav, photography. Steven Bernard, editing. Yikes. Who ARE these people? Could they go back to film school first?! It s a TIPS film release and Ramesh Taurani has clearly lost his cutting edge. The music (Pritam) is terrible. The songs have no place in the movie whatsoever. The “main rang sharbaaton ka” song has rows of cheap, colourful glass bottles as the backdrop. That terrible wailing “maaaa” background song during Savitri’s hospital scene is Atif Aslam doing his best impersonation of a scalded cat! The choreographers (Bosco-Caesar) need to be put across my knee and spanked soundly! With such an agile, fluid dancer to work with like Shahid Kapur who makes any choreographer’s job easy as pie, it’s a crying shame they couldn’t come up with better steps than those god-awful doggie moves! And shame on Kapur for giving in instead of remonstrating.

Clearly, Santoshi dashed off this script in a moment of madness and did not bother to read it again ever after. Was there an oblique, casual reference for a sequel to ‘Andaaz Apna Apna’ in there somewhere? Please, if there is a God, are You listening? Keep Santoshi away from the dynamics of dramatics!

*This review is written exclusively for The Film Writers Association of India.

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