Movies

‘Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi’ review: inconsistent and farcical

In relocating from Pakistan to India’s other favourite neighbour, China, Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi wins a bit and loses some from the prequel. The sophisticated, westernised and insipid Diana Penty, who desperately pretended to be the desi Amritsari kudi Happy, gets sidelined, thankfully, to make way for Happy No. 2 — a much more believable and forceful Punjaban Sonakshi Sinha. Happy No. 1’s irritating beau Guddu (wasted Ali Fazal) also gets confined to the margins. Instead we have a gentle, sensitive, soft-spoken and scared sardar (Punjabi star Jassi Gill, following in Diljit Dosanjh’s footsteps to Bollywood) trying to recover from heartbreak by karaoke-ing to Sunny Deol’s “Pyaar tum mujhse karti ho, don’t say no”. Reinventing a stereotype are we?

Then, of all the likeable Pakistani characters (notably Bilal “Abhay Deol” Ahmed) in the earlier film, Aziz retains the over the top, hammy cop Afridi (Piyush Mishra), to carry on the repartee between him and the doofus of a local Indian politician Bagga (Jimmy Sheirgill) who still keeps riding the white mare (“Ghodi chadh gaya tha main” is his catch phrase here) but can’t take these short journeys to their logical conclusion, i.e. wedded bliss.

In the prequel even the most slapstick moments in Pakistan came laced with some amount of refinement. In the Chinese version, writer-director Mudassar Aziz goes all out for the broad and the farcical. The plot is as harebrained as it can get, deliberately so, with the chaos getting out of hand in the protracted climax. In a case of mistaken identity a group of dimwit Chinese criminals kidnap horticulture professor Happy instead of our original Happy who is accompanying her singer-husband for his concert. It’s a strange China where a Chinese criminal speaks better Hindi than the Punjabis, where a character called Adnan Chow tries hard to balance his hyphenated identity by teaching the Chinese the fine art of appreciating cricket and differentiating between biriyani and sticky rice and reciting Urdu poetry to the local audience that goes “wah wah” in unison when prompted from the side. Then there are random Chinese citizens lip-syncing to the refrain “Chalo koi gal nai” and “Raite phail gaye” in the song ‘Koi Gal Nai’. If you have a taste for such supreme silliness (honest confession, at times my balmy head certainly does) then you’ll be be smiling, if not laughing out loud.

The problem is the lack of consistency, with the sharp lines and quick wit often lapsing into the puerile. Also, if one were to get down to “reading” things seriously then all that transpires in the on-screen Shanghai can be “analysed” as Aziz’s attempt to take down China’s political and economic domination of the region. That is, using a Bollywood film as a tool, at a time when the likes of Dangal have been reigning at the Chinese box office. From noodles to fake goods to “shey shey” (with ‘Mera naam chin chin choon’ in the background) everything Chinese is game. In fact India, with a little help from Pakistan, is made to come out much smarter than the Chinese themselves on their home turf at that.

Aziz throws political correctness out of the window. There’s nothing sacrosanct as he goes about taking the mickey out of everything—nationality, language, race, religion, gender, sexuality. The humour does feel absurdly refreshing given the righteous times that we are currently stuck in. Also, there is a saving grace: the gags are as self-deprecatory as they are about running ‘the other’ down. A Pakistani jokes about the lack of queue in his own embassy: “Hamare mulk mein aata hi kaun hai”. Indians are obviously stupid and racist as they call Pakistanis slow and unreliable, can’t tell a Korean apart from a Chinese and think Shanghai is in Japan. And if a Chinese criminal is not worth his weight in crimes, well then blame Ghaziabad for it, not China.

The most inspired moments of inanity are reserved for Jimmy Sheirgill and he responds well with his poker-faced comic timing. Be it telling a character called Pha that he has “sabun type ka naam” or berating Afridi for “zakhmon pe Urdu chhidakna” (to rub salt, nay Urdu, on the wounds) or suddenly breaking into a dance to ‘Yaara o yaara’ while dressed as Superman on stage. If there is yet another in the series in the offing Aziz had better call it Happy Ke Peeche Bagga Phir Bhag Jayega.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2020 6:09:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/happy-phirr-bhag-jayegi-review-inconsistent-and-farcical/article24770460.ece

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