Sunday, October 16, 2016

Happy Bhag Jayegi: Review

Happy Bhag Jayegi is the most appealingly silly comedy since Tere Bin Laden. I do not say this lightly, because Tere Bin Laden is something of a modern classic, if such weighty words could be used for such a trifle of a film. Yet, these trifles are often the hardest ones to make: there’s a certain amount of knowingness and wit that must shine through the ridiculousness, which is why something like Great Grand Masti would never qualify.

The film, written and directed by Mudassar Aziz, opens in Amritsar, with Harpreet “Happy” Kaur (Diana Penty) about to be wed to thuggish local politician Bagga (Jimmy Sheirgill). As the film’s title suggests she might, Happy runs away before the ceremony, jumping from the bathroom window on to a truck that’s been arranged for by her singer boyfriend, Guddu (Ali Fazal). Only, it’s the wrong truck. When Happy emerges from her wicker basket, she’s in Lahore, in the house of prominent politician Javed Ahmed (Javed Sheikh) and his son Bilal (Abhay Deol).

It’s bad enough there’s an Indian girl in his home without a passport, but Bilal must also contend with Happy’s belligerence and willingness to use the prospect of embarrassment to Bilal’s father to her advantage. Bilal, himself being groomed to be a politician, reluctantly agrees to reunite her with Guddu. Then things get really crazy. Bilal and a local police officer, Afridi (Piyush Mishra), travel to Amritsar to find Guddu. They find Bagga instead. Guddu is brought to Pakistan. Bagga follows. So does Happy’s father.

As you might have guessed, the plotting isn’t altogether comprehensible—or important. After a while, I stopped bothering about who was kidnapping whom and concentrated instead on the non sequiturs and asides the film kept tossing out; like when Happy, in the middle of one of her tirades, calls Afridi “Shahid ke chacha”. There’s a specific kind of joy in seeing Afridi roll out line after line in ornate Urdu, only to be responded to in earthy Punjabi (the film’s best joke is in the form of an untranslatable curse: “Tashreefein lag jayengi”), but there are even simpler pleasures to be had, such as Bagga’s supremely ridiculous blue shades. The Lahore of the film is lightly sketched (like the Karachi of Tere Bin Laden), with just enough detail to make the comedy seem rooted; yet it seems, to me at least, like a loving portrait.

It’s pleasing to see Deol back on our screens after a gap of two years, looking fit and relaxed, if a little awkward when he pushes for comedy (he’s a more natural straight man). Penty, who’s had an even longer gap since her 2012 debut in Cocktail, enlivens her somewhat prototypical force-of-nature role with comic energy and a surprising warmth. Sheirgill is fast turning into one of Hindi cinema’s great sad sacks, and Mishra into one of its finest mutterers. Their collective enthusiasm renders the film’s lack of subtlety endearing and its gaps in narrative logic inconsequential. I’m having a hard time remembering the last time I watched a Hindi film this silly but still found myself laughing.

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