Cast: John Abraham, Anil Kapoor, Nana Patekar, Shruti Haasan, Paresh Rawal, Supriya Karnik, Dimple Kapadia, Naseeruddin Shah, Ankita Srivastava, Shiney Ahuja
Director: Anees Bazmee
Rating: 2.5 stars
Welcome Back is Anees Bazmee’s invitation yet again to absolute nonsense for almost two-and-a-half hours that’s as entertaining while you watch it as it is forgettable a minute after the film is over. The plot is identical to what it was last time (Welcome, 2007) — behen ki shaadi — only this time more shaadis and many eager dulhas have been added to make it more convoluted and fun, but that effort is sort of neutralised by a hamming Naseeruddin Shah instead of the forever-fabulous Feroze Khan (RDX) and a climax that’s not half as much fun as the dangling house of RDX.
In Dubai live the very rich but reformed goondas, Uday (Nana Patekar) and Majnu (Anil Kapoor). They are a team, bhai-bhai, though their reaction to all this sharafat and reformation is different. Uday has made his peace with sharif life but, like a chain smoker, at certain moments in life, suffers intense withdrawal symptoms. Majnu has clarity. He thinks all this sharafat should go tel-lene and reverting to old ways is just the best idea, ever. Past their prime now, and not very busy, Uday and Majnu are often at leisure to drink and contemplate the emptiness of their lives. They both crave a karva chauth-keeping biwi at home.
Cut to a girl in bikini rising repeatedly from the sea, first for the benefit of one, and then the other. Different bikinis, same girl. Both fall for her, want to marry her. She is Princess Chandni (Ankita Srivastava), daughter of Maharani of Najafgarh (Dimple Kapadia). Aside: To get the full import of this Najafgarh gharana joke you have to have lived where I did once, on the slightly more habitable edge of the Najafgarh nala. Wikipedia has a separate page devoted to Najafgarh drain because it was once a river but has been, for the better part of my life, a landmark site that’s a hospitable breeding ground for all manner of organisms in a locality where chain snatching is still very common. Back to While Uday and Majnu are busy courting Chandni, Uday’s father appears and shoves rondu Ranjana (Shruti Hassan) at them. This is your half-sister from my third wife, he says. Get her married.
They go, like they did last time, to Dr Ghungroo (Paresh Rawal) who has recently discovered that his wife has a fully-grown, readymade son. The alliance is fixed. But that son is Ajju Bhaiya (John Abraham), a thriving maha goonda of Mumbai. Dr Ghungroo think Uday and Majnu, reformed goondas, will kill him if they discover Ajju’s truth. Not knowing that rondu Ranjana and Ajju are doing very boring beak-to-beak action — her beak being newly reconstructed, is riveting — he cancels the alliance. But soon rondu Ranjana shoves a nahaya-dhoya, pant-tie Ajju at her brothers.
Meanwhile, there’s Wanted Bhai (Naseeruddin Shah), a big-time blind gangster who lives on an island and harbours a space cadet — i.e. his son Honey (Shiney Ahuja). Honey is in love with a mysterious woman whose face he keeps painting. Wanted wants to find her and he finds her, with Ajju’s help, at rondu Ranjana’s sagai. Ajju wants to marry Ranjana, but she wants her brothers’ blessings which they won’t give. So he decides to push Chandni towards Honey.
No shaadi happens. But we roll to a supremely stupid climax involving hyper camels and killer flying objects which drags and drags till the director just throws up every character in the air and shouts "cut"! Welcome Back is often funny. But most of its comic power comes not from slapstick scenes, but from ludicrous dialogue. Apart from two set pieces — one involving Rajpal Yadav and the other a hysterical scene in a kabristan — all guffaws are courtesy silly talk.
The film is at its best when Nana, Anil and Paresh partake in what looks like spontaneous banter. They jam, almost. Their timing is impeccable. And they keep us distracted from the fact that Welcome Back is actually quite a bad film. John Abraham is the quintessential burly goofball and that’s what he plays here rather well. He’s so cute and vacant that we both could, you know, move bag and baggage into his head and order takeout.
Shiney Ahuja is back, in part. I could not figure whether he was really zoned out or seriously in character. Naseer saab, oh Naseer saab! Why is it that you talk so big but only bring your C-game to the films these days? It’s hypocritical, you know.