Reviews

Happy New Year: A long night at the bar

We all know Farah Khan loves her escapist entertainers and, literally, her own ones as well. She packs her scenes with spot-the-reference cues, even some self-referencing ones, generously. A vault is named after the retro heist film Shaalimar, the dancer heroine is Mohini (because you know, Tezaab), there’s the Chak De sattar-minute speech rehashed, the Amitabh Bachchan Mohabbatien line (Parampara, Pratishta, Anushasan), the ‘ Picture abhi baki hai mere dost’ line from Om Shanti Om.

So what happens when Bollywood tries its hand at heist? Usually, the result is Don 2 or Dhoom 2 or 3 — a wannabe Hollywood-looking film with car chases shot in foreign locations minus the logic and plausibility. Full credit to Farah Khan for not going there and for choosing to embrace the genre with all that’s truly Bollywood — song, dance and drama.

So while the template is decidedly heist, the treatment is completely Bollywood. Each character is introduced one by one with their skill sets and quirks — some of these quirks and eccentricities are dumb and contrived in a trying-hard-to-be-funny way. Nandu (Abhishek Bachchan) loves to drink and throw up. Jagmohan (Sonu Sood) is hard of hearing and gets worked up if anyone says anything about his mother (this joke is used purely to orchestrate a nine-month-long comic fight sequence that is of no consequence to the film). And Tammy (Boman) gets random convulsions for 30 seconds exactly and dresses like he’s seven years old.

Imagine you are out with an old friend who isn’t all that funny but you laugh anyway because you know he’s a good guy and also because you have become used to his sense of humour. Watching Happy New Year feels exactly like that. It requires you to wear your bar mood and after that, it’s not such a bad night.

Because one hour into the film, Mohini (Deepika Padukone) makes an entry and gives the film the very thing it needs. “The movement of the booty… I mean the beauty of the movement,” as Charlie (Shah Rukh Khan) observes.

Happy New Year is too self-aware for its own good but thankfully, it packs in some laughs with moments of irreverence and political incorrectness. The sporting Anurag Kashyap-Vishal Dadlani cameo, or the scene where the team hacks into the results to eliminate a talented children’s team called Angels, Abhishek Bachchan’s snake dance (which is likely to go viral in nightclubs) or racist digs at the Korean team.

Speaking of Koreans, this is a team that rarely laughs. A dig at Korean cinema, perhaps, because what Farah is trying to say here is that dance (or by that extrapolation, art) is not about the form but about winning hearts.

There are a couple of unwarranted, contrived twists slapped on before the actual heist to infuse needless drama and Farah loses an opportunity to make her Team India understand HOW they need to dance. As if the form really doesn’t matter. Surely, a street fighter has some moves that he just needs to apply to dance. Snake dance could have its own charm. And yes, even an introverted hacker nerd could have discovered dance as an outlet for his repressed emotions. Strangely, despite being a choreographer storyteller, Farah Khan has missed exploiting this opportunity to justify how these oddballs manage to dance — which is absolutely essential for us to know if we are to root for their dance and cheer them to win.

She does slightly better managing the heist part of the narrative until we find out there’s a password that needs to be cracked — one that has conveniently not been changed for years, despite the fact that the guy who set the password was arrested for stealing diamonds.

But hey, if you are still in that bar mood by the time you reach the ending, chances are you will enjoy Happy New Year as much as I did.

It’s a return to form for both Farah and Shah Rukh Khan though the real show stealers are Abhishek Bachchan and Deepika Padukone. Happy New Year could steal your heart if you don’t use your head. When you wake up the next morning, you probably won’t remember much. Except that you laughed out loud a few times for some strange reason.

Genre: Drama

Director: Farah Khan

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Boman Irani, Sonu Sood, Vivaan Shah, Jackie Shroff, Anupam Kher

Storyline: A bunch of oddballs need to steal diamonds and qualify for the world dance championship – all at the same time.

Bottomline: Farah once again walks the line between spoof and tribute in this rather long, self-aware entertainer with enough moments to make you smile

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Printable version | Mar 1, 2021 8:46:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-reviews/happy-new-year-hindi-film-review/article6530152.ece

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