Ashima Chibber’s Mere Dad Ki Maruti opens with a bride-to-be complaining that her father, Tej Khullar (Ram Kapoor), is scrounging around for discounts even in his dreams. Well, can you blame him? He has to foot the bills for this big fat Punjabi wedding, where appearances are everything. (The film is set in Chandigarh.) So along with those discounts, he pours cheap whiskey into Black Label bottles, and exults when a car dealership offers to deck up his brand new Maruti Ertiga with flowers for the event. For free. No one will likely catch on to the inferior whiskey (they’ll probably be too drunk to care), but the gift of this gleaming, gift-wrapped car, worth ten lakh rupees, to his son-in-law as a wedding present – ah, that everyone will see. So it’s a good thing he doesn’t know that his son Sameer (Saqib Saleem) has borrowed the vehicle to impress Jasleen (Rhea Chakraborty) on a date, and that the car is now lost.
If the plot brings to mind the 1980s Hollywood teen comedies (and especially Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, right down to the goofy protagonist, the sister he keeps bickering with, and a long-suffering friend), it’s probably intentional. The vibe is young, no-fuss – which is why the dramatic scenes don’t play out as well as they should. And even at a brisk 100 minutes plus change, the proceedings feel padded. But the sprightly cast – including Ravi Kishan as a car smuggler who mouths theatrically overcooked lines apparently lifted from Shatrughan Sinha’s hits – and the humour won me over. Prabal Panjabi is a quiet riot as Sameer’s best friend Gattu (I was guffawing at his line, “You lost me at mashooka”), though the film is stolen by a ditzy prostitute (I think), who loves “hot wheels” and possesses an uncanny knack for insinuating herself into the narrative. Small pleasures befitting a small movie.
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