Why can’t we make a good sex comedy? Perhaps the problem lies with the Censor Board that demands cuts instead of rating films according to content. And surely, part of the problem lies with the audience too – the screening of The Shaukeens I attended was filled with children, and with them in the theatre, you certainly don’t want a sex comedy that goes all the way. (Maybe that explains films like Grand Masti, whose leery one liners fly over the heads of these tots.) But why is it that dramas routinely get away with more adult content – both visual and, well, oral – than these comedies? At least with the earlier Shaukeen, it’s easy to point out why it was so limp. The director Basu Chatterji treated the material like something to be watched with the family, without squirming – and to be fair to him, the era was less permissive. Also, maybe there was only so far you could go with actors of the stature of Ashok Kumar, Utpal Dutt and AK Hangal. I mean, do you really want to see Imam Sahib dreaming about a D cup? But how does one excuse the sheer ineptness of this new film?
It’s a good idea, in theory. We usually flinch when we hear of old films being remade, but Shaukeen needed a makeover. This story of three old men looking to score was begging to be filled with the smut the material really demanded. The director, Abhishek Sharma, tips a hat to the older film by reusing the voiceover-filled beginning, and he makes one of the old men (Annu Kapoor; the other two are played by Anupam Kher and Piyush Mishra) sing the Kishore Kumar number Jab bhi koi kangna bole. (And Rati Agnihori, the object of lust from that film, now plays a sexless wife. A hopelessly out-of-place Lisa Haydon takes over as heroine.) Otherwise, this is a new setting – it’s a new world, filled with sex toys and pole dancers. But the only worthwhile gag has the Mishra character re-enacting the evolution of man. (You have to see this.) The film, otherwise, is a disaster. (And Tigmanshu Dhulia wrote this?)
It’s only when Akshay Kumar shows up – he plays himself – that we perk up. The actor is always better in films where he doesn’t have to carry the load, and he’s very funny here, spoofing the sameness of his roles and yearning to win a National Award by collaborating with an acclaimed Bengali filmmaker. Just watch the scene where he poses for a series of endorsements without missing a step. Or the scene where he attempts to emote a “ganda feeling.” Or the scene where he practices the navarasas, with the help of a chart. Too bad his part is just a longish cameo – this should have been the movie. Forget the sex – at least we would have had comedy.
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