If the Harold and Kumar team decided to remake Padosi, V Shantaram’s 1941 plea for religious tolerance, you might have something like Bangistan – it’s a give-peace-a-chance stoner comedy with an explosive climax right out of the older movie. Here too, a Hindu and a Muslim, so far on opposing sides, realise the error of their ways and end up hand in hand. Bangistan is every bit as awful as that description sounds. Where do I begin? Perhaps with the early scene that has Hafiz Bin Ali (Ritesh Deshmukh) pretending to be… “Harold” in a call centre manned by ultra-conservative Muslims. Affecting an accent, he dials a number. A sexy woman in a bikini, somewhere in the Western world, picks up. Soon, her irate husband is on the line, issuing this threat: “I will personally send a drone to Afghanistan to blow you… I mean, blow you up.” This isn’t the worst joke.
Bangistan, directed by Karan Anshuman, is the name of a fictional country filled with strife. The northern part is Muslim-dominated. The south is filled with Hindus. Each half decides to send a human bomb – Hafiz and Praveen Chaturvedi (Pulkit Samrat) – to the World Religions’ Conference in Poland to blow the people gathered… I mean, blow them up. Among these people are an American Indian, headdress and all, and Star Wars fans in Darth Vader and Stormtrooper costumes. And when the two potential terrorists land up there, they sing boozy songs with local wench Rosie (Jacqueline Fernandez) and re-enact scenes from Taxi Driver. Not the Dev Anand movie. The one with Robert De Niro. It’s been a while since a film registered so high on the WTF-o-meter.
Anshuman has ideas – but he doesn’t know what to do with those ideas on screen. There’s a great (in theory) bit about a Chinese shopkeeper who speaks impeccable Urdu. There’s a great (in theory) bit about a television commercial (for weaponry) that’s made in the style of something you’d see on a home-shopping network. There’s a great (in theory) bit in a bathroom when Praveen drops to his knees in front of Hafiz. No wait. That isn’t a bit. That’s real drama. Suddenly, the film U-turns and goes dead serious on us. So far, we’d only seen hints of message-mongering – say, in the saffron- and green-coloured cabs taken by Hafiz and Praveen, or in the saffron- and green-coloured T-shirts they wear. But now, there are tears and speeches and the kind of bone-chillingly bad acting that makes us wonder if the leads graduated (with honours) from a school run by Upen Patel and Kamal R Khan. Anshuman was a critic in his former life. Bangistan looks like an act of atonement. He seems to be saying: I took a dump on your films. Here, take a dump on mine.
- Padosi = see here
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