Maa is back in business and so is lesson in honesty. Rajkumar Santoshi shows how melodrama can be compelling. On the surface it has all the ingredients which make it sound dated but Santoshi brings in a layer of innocence and a charmer called Shahid Kapur turning it into a rollicking entertainer.
Early in the film a film writer tells the protagonist, an aspiring actor, that he had films like Wanted, Dhoom and Ghajini in his mind but they were stolen even before he could pen them. It is this satirical tone that marks Santoshi’s writing. These days mainstream comedy is reduced to a series of disjointed gags on human anatomy. Santoshi’s humour is more situational and will work only if you get a hang of his crazy universe, which is quite similar to his last film Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahaani or his enduring comedy Andaz Apna Apna . Yes, there are timeless tropes like villains kidnapping the mother to blackmail the son but there is a whiff of honesty in this cocktail of drama and comedy which compels you to suspend disbelief. It is about Vishwas, both literally and metaphorically! Either you have it or don’t.
Vishwas’ (Shahid) mother (Padmini Kolhapure) wants to see him as a police officer but the boy is star-crossed from childhood. So when the fate takes him to Mumbai, his ambition takes wing. He gets into the uniform for the shoot of a portfolio but is mistaken for a real police officer by a girl (Ileana D’Cruz) who loves to complain. And soon we find that our protagonist is doing everything that our hero in the poster flaunts. It is this intermingling of reel and real in a film that makes it an interesting watch. The excuses are hard to believe but as one said when the actors are convinced about what they are doing, audience, generally, don’t nit pick.
After a staccato start, once the film gets on track, the naivety of characters – even the villains are endearing – wins you over. Take the scene where the mother is in hospital, and a nurse tells Vishwas that doctor Vinod Khanna is calling. Vishwas could not believe that there could be some other Vinod Khanna as well apart from the hero he knows. It shows the stupidity of the character but also convinces the audience about the passion of the youngster. It is where comedy and drama intermingles and prevents the film from becoming a farce.
Santoshi, who has also written the film, pays due credit to his inspirations. So when he lifts a segment from M unnabhai he weaves the title in the story. When the track takes a Don route, he makes it part of the dialogues. There is no infestation of gags. The humour emanates from the situations and though songs come at will, the intrinsic logic is not compromised. The only issue is the second half is stretched beyond the elasticity of the narrative and the climax seems a rehash of Ajab....
Once again Santoshi proves he is an actor’s director. Shahid makes a solid comeback after a series of duds and almost carries the film on his robust shoulders. He has always been cute but a kind of sameness had set in his demeanour. Here he loosens up as he gets to essay all the emotions that make an actor a commercial Hindi film hero. In fact, Vishwas admits it at the end. Ileana is supposed to be cutely irritating and she does it well. Returning after a long break Kolhapure plays the mother of yore. Though Santoshi has characterised her as an auto rickshaw driver, he hasn’t given her any elbow space to improvise on the wretched maa staple, who only has honesty and courage to flaunt and tears to dispense. The support cast is up for the game with Saurabh Shukla and Sanjay Mishra in crackling form. The timing is the key here and nobody goes off key. Even Salman Khan, in a cameo, laughs at himself and for once gets insecure!
It is the kind of m asti that one expects from our mainstream Hindi cinema.
PHATA POSTER NIKHLA HERO
Cast:Shahid Kapur, Ileana D’Cruz, Padmini Kolhapure
Plot:An aspiring actor gets into a police uniform and doesn’t know how to get out of it.
Bottomline:A family entertainer fuelled by Shahid’s charm.