One successful gag does not a good film make. This is the sad lesson of Fatso!, though the gag in question is so beautifully thought out and executed, it almost makes the rest of the movie’s misfires bearable. Almost.
After he dies in a car crash, Navin (Purab Kohli) finds himself in an elevator, moving up to heaven. When the doors open, death turns out to be a government office. There are queues for “natural death” and “suicide”, mountains of files gathering dust, babus and clerks drinking cups of tea. What’s worse, Navin finds out that due to a bureaucratic screw-up, he was actually retired before his innings was up. His friend Sudeep (Ranvir Shorey), who survived the crash, was the one scheduled to die. Navin complains all the way to the top and is finally offered a compromise: rejoin the living, but in the overweight body of Sudeep.
Once Fatso! returns to earth, it begins to falter. Navin starts pursuing his heartbroken fiancée Nandini (Gul Panag), only now everyone thinks he’s Sudeep. It feels wrong – not just because of the mushy a-person’s-soul-never-dies bits, but because Sudeep being overweight doesn’t seem to have any particular bearing on the story. It’s an excuse, a way to draft in a couple of fat jokes and to feel superior when the reed-thin Panag starts developing feelings for her corpulent friend and spirit vessel. Weighing proceedings down further is the frequently banal writing (“Your problem is you’re a man and you have no idea how a woman feels”) and a grating subplot involving Neil Bhoopalam and Gunjan Bakshi.
Rajat Kapoor, whose last film was the dark, strangely moving Mithya, had planned to release Fatso! in 2009. Instead, it landed in theatres a month ago, after a frustrating three-year wait, and departed soon after. After all these tribulations, it would have been nice to be able to say that Fatso! is a comic gem that deserved better. The truth, however, is that it’s one inspired sequence in search of a few others. Still, the red tape scenes are heavenly.
A version of this review appeared in Time Out Delhi.