What’s worse than a Priyadarshan comedy that isn’t funny? A Priyadarshan drama with no focus, that’s what.
JUL 25, 2010 – PRIYADARSHAN’S SELF-PROCLAIMED PURPOSE on earth is to churn out comedies of confusion, but with Khatta Meetha, he’s made a drama of confusion. Is this, like Arjun, the valorous saga of a defeated young man who redeems himself by exposing crooked establishment figures? Is this, like Saaheb, a melodrama about a son who, sadly, can never find favour in his stern father’s eyes? Or is this, like Hera Pheri, a minor-key morality tale about desperate people resorting to disreputable ways of making money, until shown the errors of their ways? The director cannot make up his mind and he opts for an unholy mix, embellished with his now-familiar slapstick touches like a can of red paint missing its intended target and exploding, instead, on the portrait of a patriarch. The result is to the brain what candy is to teeth – and there isn’t even the consolation of a sugar rush.
It’s easier to dismiss a movie that doesn’t work if it just wants to be a no-brainer comedy. It isn’t as easy to look away when it actually wants to be about something – something important like the fact that builders and politicians and bureaucrats are selfish and corrupt and think little about the common man, who, therefore, is forced to turn selfish and corrupt. Well, who knew? This decades-old storyline is done no favours by interminable scenes with no sense of narrative focus and populated with characters who appear and disappear at will. Why stage the brutal murder of an innocent if this incident is never going to referred to again? That makes it look as if the “topical” issues (that resulted in the murder) were raised only to prop up the climactic action sequence, involving, like Arjun, a satchel of secret files.
The aggressively choreographed dance sequences are even more unbearable. Is there anyone, at this point, who’s not sick of rows of blonde chorus girls encroaching on a supposed representation of middle-class Maharashtrian life? The leads come bearing names like Sachin Tichkule (Akshay Kumar, playing a construction contractor) and Gehna Ganpule (Trisha, as a bureaucrat), and that’s the extent of their rootedness. You could transpose them to Tamil Nadu or West Bengal and the story wouldn’t skip a beat. I suppose, in a film worth discussing, we might wonder how someone as cynical as Gehna came to work for the government, spouting platitudes like “Abhi bhi desh mein sachaai aur insaaf zinda hain.” Here, all I could do was giggle at her hair, done up in a bun. The bun, as we know, is the universal semaphore for severity, the hairstyle of choice for leather-clad dominatrices and Cold-War Russian spies and, of course, dour Indian civil servants. Too bad this film has room only for the latter.
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