Entertainment Movie Reviews 29 Dec 2019 Happi is Pankaj&rsqu ...

Happi is Pankaj’s ode to Chaplin!

Published Dec 29, 2019, 1:11 am IST
Updated Dec 29, 2019, 1:11 am IST
This tribute to Charl Chaplin is a daringly unconventional film, where Pankaj Kapoor excels in a career defining role.
Pankaj Kapoor in a scene from the film
 Pankaj Kapoor in a scene from the film

Starring Pankaj Kapoor, and Chotu
Directed by Bhavna Talwar

Okay, we forgive Zee5 all its trespasses of excesses. By rescuing  director Bhavna Talwar’s exquisite  black-and-white homage to the great Charlie Chaplin, the channel has shown us what the streaming platform should actually be used for.


A film like Happi comes once in a bluemoon. It is a daringly unconventional film and not the least unexpected from the very talented director Bhavna Talvar whose Dharm in 2007 featured Pankaj Kapoor in yet another career-defining role.

Happi is a film that will go down in history as India’s only genuine tribute to the genius of Charlie Chaplin. Doing the homage (never an impersonation) the  great Pankaj Kapoor immerses himself in the character of the capricious naïve pure-hearted Happi, a chawl dweller who is the brunt of ridicule in  an Iranian club where he  sings and does stand-up comedy to eke out a living. He is fairly ridiculous. But happy when humoured.


The sequences in the smoky club find Pankaj Kapoor at the peak of puckishness. That’s where Happi comes alive. But unknown to him, Happi’s career is dead. In a generation-driven conflict that  we recently saw in Tumhari Sallu, the kindly club owner’s brash son (Nakul Vaid, in a credible performance) gatecrashes into the club’s serene status quo, and overnight changes the rules, hiring a  crooning siren (Hrishita Bhatt) to replace  Happi and then promptly having an affair with her.

As socio-cultural changes overpower Happi’s life, he looks around in utter bewilderment at a world he no longer knows. It is a heartbreaking situation to be in. Pankaj constructs a Chaplineque pathos in Mumbai’s bustling chawls where callousness is a way of life. If you can’t cope, you perish. Or otherwise you become the Joker.


More than a portrait of a rapidly mutating metropolitan environment Happi shows us how cruel human beings can be to someone who is not uncorrupted enough to understand when he is being mocked.

The sequence where the club gets Happi  drunk and watches him perform a silly dance is heartbreaking. This is a world where Raj Kapoor’s Awara is blinded by  Chaplin’s City Lights. This is a world where a ‘Happi’ is way too emotionally fragile to survive. His friendship with a  street dog Chotu who follows him home will linger in your memory as a showcase  of loneliness and companionship in a city that grows rapidly uncaring.


Pankaj’s Happi is what Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker becomes when left to be annihilated by his own desolation. There are some interesting cameos, particularly  Supriya Pathak (Mrs Pankaj Kapoor) as the street vendor Rukmani whose initial kindness towards Happi turns into a sneering contempt for a man too naïve to survive in the concrete jungle.

Shot in lucid black and white by  Martin Grosup, Happi could have done better in the music department. The mighty Ilaiayaraja disappoints big time. That’s what life does. Like Happi who believes a  smile can overcome any crisis, the surge of disappointments tend to cut away  into your faith in mankind to rise to  any occasion. Sometimes, the dream just dissolves. This is not a safe place for Happi to be. Farewell my hapless warrior.