Saturday, June 10, 2023
Home » Entertainment » Bollywood » February 25, 2023

Movie Review | Selfie: An unworthy remake of Driving License'


Published on: February 25, 2023 | Updated on: February 25, 2023

Source: Twitter

The country was introduced to some amazing cinema this side of the Vindhyas when Covid got us indoors. One such movie that appreciated pan-India was the 2019 Jean Paul Lal creation, ‘Driving License’.

It was a wonderful idea to recreate the experience a few years later.  The news that Bollywood would reappraise the film was taken arguably with a degree of skepticism.

Three years down the line, armed with hope and a ticket (the promos notwithstanding) even as you adjust to the comfort of the theatres, ‘Selfie’ hits you and screams at you.

This is a textbook case of contrast. It was just a week ago that I advocated the avoidance of comparison of an original Telugu hit with the Hindi remake. Time to eat humble pie. The U-turn I make is largely circumstantial and a near compulsion consequent to the heavy-duty mess at the pre and production stages of the remake.

Lal gave us a simple engaging tale of the unwitting ego clash between a popular film star and his fan when a fan moment goes wrong. Shot in Kerala the cinematography was a script in itself and the performances were perfect.

Raj Mehta ups the scale and downs the intrinsic value of the story. The resultant experience is a yawn of a mainstream Bollywood film which if initial signs are anything to go by, is going to add to the trend of Akshay films at the Box Office in recent times.

Exaggeration is perhaps inevitable in the art of cinema. The art is also in knowing where to draw the line and how much should a tight script be revisited under the guise of going pan India. On multiple counts the filmmaker flounders.

Om Prakash Agarwal (Emraan Hashmi) is an inspector at the RTO in Bhopal. He and his son Gabbu (Neev Ahuja) are great fans of popular Bollywood star Vijay Kumar (Akshay Kumar). Vijay Kumar comes to Bhopal for a shoot.  He realizes that though he loves driving swanky cars, he needs a driving license. He even agrees to go to the RTO and extend the privilege of a selfie with the overzealous inspector. Things go wrong. Terribly wrong. Also against the backdrop is another aging actor Suraj Diwan (Abhimanyu Singh) who dreams of a hit film that has eluded him.   

The ego clash between Vijay and Agarwal gets blown out of proportion and is in the public domain. Both take stances difficult to withdraw from and every step is monitored by the paparazzi and the media. Public opinion exhibits swift mood changes from favouring the inspector to siding with the actor who plays mind games. In a span of 143 minutes of which over 20 is expended on establishing that Akshay is a star, the film exaggerates where the original strived to keep things simple.

While Prithviraj and Kuruvilla Joseph built up the crisis with measured moves and amazing acting, Akshay goes over the top and Emran is chopped to a minimal space. Resultantly, the marinated script completely loses steam.  The exaggerated narration robs the adaptation of the required punch that made the original a near masterpiece and this a very poor copy.

Akshay Kumar had a wonderful opportunity to re-examine his artistic space and emulate Prithvi. Unfortunately, he is so full of himself - a probable justification being that he is playing a mainstream star that he is. His one-liners work but not much after that.

Also, age is beginning to show and his action belies his age. There was a time when the media was rife with stories of him being a star who interfered with the role of his co-stars. The truth or otherwise of this natter cannot be proved. In this outing, however, the lack of balance in the space occupied by the two actors is the principal undoing of the film.

Did the film lose itself in the script for trying too much when it had the tempting alternative of playing true to the original and traveling out of it only to match a pan-India context?  Did the script (Rishhabh Sharma) do too much to impress and make a difference?

Also, I suspect that Mukesh Chhabra, the casting in charge, could have taken some wrong calls. To start with Disha Penty as the wife of the film star, even in the limited space looks unfit. Nushrat Bharucha as the wife of the inspector is all right though the script offers her just nothing. Among the others who have some screen space, we have Abhimanyu Singh who tries hard to look like an embarrassment and achieves it.  What was the creative crew doing with him would remain an unsolved mystery. Meghna Malik as the overzealous corporator is good as is Mahesh Thakur as the secretary of the actor.

As stated before Akshay stretches too far and in the process disturbs the needed balance. The star power as an undercurrent was so suavely depicted by Prithviraj. Difficult to emulate, perhaps it was a conscious call to contrast rather than extend the role in the remake.

Could the casting director have chosen someone like Ajay Devgn for the role is a moot question but I cannot help but believe that one huge pothole in the film is the manner in which the role of Vijay Kumar ultimately evolves. In direct contrast is the role of Emran Hashmi.  He is seen as some designed trivial contrast with the script loaded in favour of the star. Could a stronger actor like Raj Kumar Rao blended into the narrative is another moot question. Given the director’s right to take the call (commercial or creative), the lopsided presentation of the characters is the undoing of ‘Selfie’.

Akshay Kumar now holds a Guinness record (as reported in this daily) for the maximum number of selfies.  The success may well end there. Otherwise for those who have watched ‘Driving License’ and the superlative performances from Kuruvilla Joseph and Prithviraj, this is a loud and soulless remake.


Director: Raj Mehta

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Emraan Hashmi, Abhimanyu Singh, and Nushrat Bharucha