Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mastizaade: Review

Early on in Mastizaade, Aditya (Vir Das) and Sunny (Tusshar Kapoor) say something along the lines of, “Superman has X-ray, we have chicks-ray.” Why not just say “sex-ray”? It’s not particularly clever, but it rhymes and is a sight better than “chicks-ray”. Now, it’s possible that the censor board decided that “sex-ray” was too outrageous and made them change it. But this is an undertaking (I hesitate to call it a film) so lazy and infantile, I feel no obligation to give the benefit of doubt to its makers.

Mastizaade doesn’t have a story worth detailing. It’s a bunch of loosely connected skits built around Aditya and Sunny’s attempts to get with, respectively, Laila Lele (Sunny Leone) and her sister Lily (also Leone, wearing spectacles). The onslaught of failed gags is relentless; there’s no attempt to build anything like a narrative in between jokes about round and pointy objects. After an excruciating first half, our heroes land up in Pattaya, Thailand, where Lily is supposed to marry a hothead in a wheelchair called Deshpremee Singh (Shaad Randhawa). Then begins the excruciating second half…

All this has sprung, seemingly unfiltered and unchecked, from the head of Milap Zaveri, writer of the adult comedies Masti and Grand Masti and last week’s Kyaa Kool Hai Hum 3. Zaveri is both co-writer (with Mushtaq Sheikh) and director on Mastizaade, and his signature wit is in full bloom. Take, for instance, the scene in which a man appears to tell time by touching a donkey’s testicles (he’s moving them aside to see a clock tower). Or the naming of Aditya and Sunny’s superior at work as Dil Wala, just so they can call him “Boss D. Wala”. Or the idea that being gay is akin to being effeminate or of indistinct gender.

Material like this is beyond saving, though Das’ stand-up instincts allow him to salvage a line or two. Kapoor is difficult to watch as he flounces around, making faces and trying to do what Riteish Deshmukh does with somewhat better results in similar films. Suresh Menon hams unconscionably as the token gay character. And it’s particularly sad to see the veteran comic Asrani turn up as Laila and Lily’s father; it seems unfair that someone who worked with Hrishikesh Mukherjee should one day find himself working with Milap Zaveri.

This leaves the star of the film, the sole reason it’s being talked about and reviewed widely. It’s difficult to convey personality in a film that’s constantly trying to strip you of it (or just strip you: She’s fully nude in her introductory scene, with household items covering up the Parts That Must Not Be Seen), but Leone manages to infuse a few scenes with a saucy comic touch. It’s no more advanced a performance than one might find in one of the bigger-budget porn parodies they make in the US, but it gets the job (cue 15 vintage Zaveri puns) done (it’s also as effective as anything Katrina Kaif has ever done in any of her movies). Leone may not be better than this film, but she’s the best thing in it.

This review appeared in Mint.

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