THE VILLAIN IN CHIEF of Samir Karnik’s multi-Deol caper is named after a well-known film critic. His election symbol is ‘stars’ and his contender who will eventually win, uses an airplane as his sign. This criticism-does-not-get-escapism dig falls flat on its face the moment you set eyes on the tack that is to be your getaway from reality for the next three hours.
Sunny’s NRI sardar comes to Varanasi in search of his estranged father-brother duo (Dharmendra and Bobby, naturally) and joins in their cons so he can try and convince them to reunite with his mother. This promising premise is then murdered several times over. Bobby takes the first shot at killing it with his bewilderingly abysmal acting abilities, and hits bull’s eye. Then comes the heartbreak of watching a legend like Dharmendra fall from grace. Dip into all the nostalgia you can pump but it is hard to miss the havoc age has played on that beautiful face. It is even more disturbing to watch him play sleazy so convincingly, especially given that he is not really acting in the film. This is not the adorable botany professor from Chupke Chupke, nor Jai’s unforgettable better half from Sholay. This is the corpse of an actor who died plodding through slush directed by Kanti Shah in the 1990s. But he resembles the dreams that the likes of Hrishikesh Mukherjee wove for our cinema, making it harder to see him in this mess.
The biggest blow to the film still comes from Bollywood’s proverbial Achilles Heel — the writing. The story and dialogues are so sloppy and lazy, they hum you to sleep and then jolt you out of it to grate on nerves. Part of the problem is that most writers in Bollywood no longer bother with writing a composite film. Instead, they scribble up gags keeping in mind a minimal and typical audience they want, to set the cash registers ringing in the opening week. All they need as insurance is a strong NRI angle to the script and a religious festival opening.
Cherry on the sell-Punjab-to-Punjabis fest is close shots of Karaa twirling and the Khalsa symbol. Problem is these shortcuts do not lead to the escapism espoused in the film. Nor does lifting scenes from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. And self-referential jokes in the absence of wit are empty vanity. If only the film had got the glorious Deol family together with honest and intelligent writing instead, the starwallahs and hawaijahajwallahs could have taken a happy flight together.