Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor, Pankaj Kapoor, Sanah Kapoor, Sanjay Kapoor, Sushma Seth, Vikas Verma
Director: Vikas Bahl
Rating: Truly Terrible
We know that potty, poop, crap, faeces, sh.. don’t sh... But Bollywo-od is an exception. Anything can happen there. There is the standard Bollywood shit: romances around families, in colleges, across the border, in foreign locales, in havelis; and there’s papa/ pariva-ar/desh ki izzat ke liye ladai. These are films by those whose worldview is born of and nurtured by Bollywood. Writers and directors who consume Bollywood and then excrete it. This year we’ve had, with excruciating regularity, films regurgitated from formulaic screenplay that are past and spurious. That sh.., that poop has been served this week. And they are calling it Shaandaar. This has been produced by not one but three Bollywood worthies — commercial king Karan Johar, indie diva Anurag Kashyap and Bollywood’s indie hope, Vikramaditya Motwane. I shit you not.
The film begins with Naseeruddin Shah’s voiceover and cartoons to tell a fairytale. There’s Bipin, his evil Mummyji (Sushma Seth), a nondescript biwi, their daughter Isha, and the wide-eyed orphan, Alia, he brings home one day. Mummyji disapproves but Alia is not one to wilt. Tenacious and wicked, she gives it back to Mummyji in exploding doses. Bipin and Isha love Alia. But she’s an orphan and this sad fact robs her of sleep. She stays up all night, every night, talks to night animals, gathers trivia to irritate us. It’s cute and should have stayed that way.
But the film takes a leap. Cartoon is replaced by real actors and real places and there on begins a long, worthless journey that’ll consume almost three precious hours of what’s left of your life. Beeps (Pankaj Kapoor), as Alia calls Bipin, worries about her and makes little sketches of dreams she can dream when she sleeps. But she doesn’t. So he decides, mann hi mann mein, that he’ll marry her to the one who makes her sleep. He awaits a rajkumar who will rescue his sleepless beauty. Rajkumar arrives on a bike, smoking and making smoky eyes. Papaji, as Jagjinder Joginder (Shahid Kapoor) calls Beeps, is not impressed. But JJ is bewitched. He sees Alia and things happen. Dragonflies embossed on her clothes start to fly, heavens shower petal. And, lo and behold! JJ too can’t sleep. He too has a sad story.
What ensues is a desi familial tale with a Broadway musical hangover. It’s a cuckoo idea and could have been fun. But that required execution. Not intermittent choreography performed to terrible songs while the rest of the time we must sit and admire the great comic genius hidden in characters’ names, force out laughter at jokes that are decidedly limp, and suffer tedious nonsense courtesy hash brownies and magic mushrooms. There’s no story, no romance. Just a garbled scheme of things. The writer-director and his two female co-writers (Anvita Dutt and Chaitally Parmar) seem to think that a game of chupan-chupai between the lead pair constitutes romance. Cretinous Robin does get to drive the plot a bit, by poking fun at “healthy” Isha. This leads to a big hug for the big girl from all those who love her.
After Chillar Party (2011) and Queen (2014), Vikas Behl has made Shaandaar. It’s the sort of screenplay that should have made him vomit. It’s a septic tank full of stinking ideas Bollywood had used and excreted several times over. Watching the film is like wading through waist-deep muck littered with dead ideas, dud characters, rotting cliches. Cute Alia gets the full attention of the cinematographer and the audience, but seems listless and a bit out of it all. In any case, she has no character except that she can’t sleep till she sleeps.
The film thinks that two dimpled people smiling at each other is romance. Well, the lead pair is hardly riveting. They emit bada bhai-choti behen vibes. Only the rakhi is missing. Shahid Kapoor and Pankaj Kapoor create more chemistry. But then, Pankaj Kapoor can generate chemistry with a pink phantom bull. Didn’t Anurag Kashyap grandly announce earlier this year that he’s pakki kutti with this country and Bollywood? Didn’t he, after that great disaster called Bombay Velvet, say to the effect that “I’m so great, can’t bear this mediocrity any more, I’m moving to France”?
Why hasn’t he?