Rating: **1/2 (2.5 stars)
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Boman Irani, Vivaan Shah, Sonu Sood, Abhishek Bachchan
Director: Farah Khan
The makers of Happy New Year call it a heist thriller but it is actually the second edition of Shah Rukh Khan’s ode to himself, (first being Chennai Express). This time he does it with a little help from Farah Khan. SRK bursts into the scene, or should we say his eight packs burst into the scene, as slush in slow-motion tries to make them look more photogenic and less wrinkly. One wonders why the fuss over these eight packs when clearly he looks so much better with his shirt on. But muscles aside, King Khan plays the hero to the tee, the Charlie (his name in the film) who has a firm grip on his "angels" to accomplish his mission, which is to avenge his father’s death.
Following the graph of heist thrillers, HNY hinges itself on a revenge back story and borrows heavily from the Big Mama of heist movies --- Ocean’s Eleven, among many others. And since this is a Farah Khan film, the action plays out in the middle of what seems like a never ending series of songs, blinding LED lights, colours at their vivid best, the quintessential “maa” and dollops of mera Bharat Mahan sentiments. What works in favour of the film is that no matter the distractions, the plot doesn’t fade into oblivion (which seems to be a lot to ask for in Bollywood these days). The screenplay maintains a decent pace too, thereby keeping up the entertainment quotient.
Charlie, a Boston university topper, has devoted his life to seek revenge from Charan Grover (Jackie Shroff) who had betrayed Charlie’s father and sent him to jail. He spends eight years to hatch the perfect revenge strategy and eventually ends up with a team of underdogs comprising Boman Irani (an epileptic safe-cracker), Vivaan Shah (a baby-face hacker), Sonu Sood (assistant director, former army man), Abhishek Bachchan (a vomiting drunkard) and Deepika Padukone (bar dancer turned dance teacher). This team of “losers” as they are referred to in the film, make a journey of vengeance to Dubai, to take part in an international dance championship to even scores with their nemesis.
Given the kind of stars on board, the performances are not spectacular. Shah Rukh’s act as the “team ka gunda” has some residual Chak De shades and that’s not just because of the stubble. Also it’s a strange mix, since this film, unlike Chak De, is not meant to be taken seriously. Deepika’s “saat minute” green room pep talk is an obvious tribute to King Khan but funny nonetheless. Boman plays a man child called Tammy whose diction becomes grating after a point. What a waste of Boman. Vivaan is apt as the hacker who works his mind and talks less. Sonu continues his usual flexing of muscles while his blood shot eyes pop out of their sockets. Abhishek in a double role just about makes himself bearable. Deepika as dancer Mohini is the only one who manages to impress, with both her acting and dancing chops. She’s not loaded with screen time as compared to others, but manages to make every moment count. Her character is slightly more nuanced, as she has to look ultra glamorous while keeping her chawl roots in place. Deepika pulls it off seamlessly.
The story has several U-turns, some predictable, some not so much. The dance sequences are a visual spectacle and most of Vishal-Shekhar’s songs are catchy too, Manwa Laage deserving a special mention. SRK-Deepika’s chemistry’s got nothing to write home about, more so because their love-track in the film is utterly forced. It’s a bit of feel-good and feel-confused, scales tipping towards the latter.
There are a bunch of never-seen-before things in the film that have nothing to do with the core story. But the gimmicks manage to hold your interest. I’ll mention only one. A drag queen turn by, (hold your breath), Vishal Dadlani and, (try not to faint), Anurag Kashyap.
Because the film manages to tick most formula boxes, one can expect it to rock the festive weekend, a time when the audience automatically seems to get less discerning. We don’t know how much this Diwali release will leave you smiling, but those dazzling lights and eye-popping colours will leave you blinking for sure.