Phata Poster Nikla Hero

phata-poster-nikla-hero-poster

Shahid Kapoor is just so likeable. Rajkumar Santoshi should thank his lucky stars he landed a lead actor who could partly overcome some of the major flaws with his patchy action comedy. I didn’t hate the film, but I’m glad I saw it on ‘Tightarse Tuesday’ when tickets are half price and my expectations are that little bit lower.

Vishwas Rao (Shahid) is a young man who has been obsessed with film heroes all his life. His Ma Savitri (Padmini Kolhapure) is a strong woman who raised him alone, working as an auto driver to pay the bills. She has her own reasons for wanting Vishwas to be a good policeman. He wants to be an actor, and when events conspire to send him to Mumbai it seems he might be getting closer to his dream. Dressed as a cop for a photo shoot, he is mistaken for the real thing and his double life starts. A police inspector to his mum and feisty ‘Complaint’ Kajal (Ileana D’Cruz), and a struggling actor to everyone else, Vishwas is headed for comedy complications. Especially once the mob and an expat terrorist get involved. Hijinks ensue.

Phata-Poster-Nikla-Hero- a very filmi boy

Shahid is required to play broad range of emotions from juvenile comedy to emotionally distraught mummy’s boy and steely eyed action hero and he does it all with aplomb. The comedy is not to my liking but I respected his effort to make it all work. The action scenes have the flavour of the month South Indian style, right down to the dramatic earth tremors when Vishwas stamps his foot and the extremely aerodynamic rowdies he despatches. Shahid dances his way through these scenes rather than fights, and I think a bit more grunt was warranted to live up to the mass standard. He declaims heroic threats with conviction and does puppy eyes with the best of them. No one feels sorrier for themselves than an Indian film hero, and Shahid oozed self pity as Vishwas contemplated a life of not being a big movie star. And he does get to dance a bit which made me happy. Especially a wildly silly pole dancing prelude to a confrontation with the bad gang. It’s a great role for him to show off his acting and have some fun.

phata-poster-nikla-hero-Ileana

I liked Ileana’s role as Kajal, the social worker and love interest. She has her own thing going on, and initially is only interested in Vishwas as an honest policeman in a force overpopulated by corrupt idiots. But she is drawn by his innate goodness or perhaps the way he fills out his rented uniform.

phata-poster-nikla-hero-dynamic duo

Their romance develops and is a part of their lives but it isn’t the whole story and is taken for granted rather than overplayed. Ileana is expressive and lively, occasionally veering towards the Genelia Line (beyond which lies Manic Pixie/Escaped Psychiatric Patient territory).  She only does one really stupid thing, and even that was because Vishwas didn’t think to tip her off before she spoke.

The real heroine is Vishwas’ mother Savitri. She is the kind of filmi ma who sees trouble and immediately tucks her pallu at her waist and wades in to help. She raised Vishwas on her own after her husband, a corrupt cop, took off. I think Savitri had read the “Nirupa Roy Guide to Filmi Parenting” but applied her learnings selectively. She laid on the emotional blackmail when she thought Vishwas was doing the wrong thing, and wasn’t averse to invoking god and suicide when he baulked. But as she came to understand her son rather than just seeing her idealised boy, she changed her mind. Their relationship was the emotional core of the film, not the fluffy romance. I also liked seeing a single parent family where the mother had dignity and her own income and wasn’t existing on some nebulous mix of charity and whinging.

phata-poster-nikla-hero-no need for subtletyPhata-Poster-Nikhla-Hero-Shahid

Where the film lost me was partly the comedy. I did enjoy the film references from an excellent cameo by Salman Khan, Shahid’s impressions of yesteryear heroes, right through to Vishwas paraphrasing the famous “Mere paas Maa hai”. They even worked in a Salman style tearing off of shirt, very appropriate for the Chulbul Pandey obsessed fake policeman!  But there are too many comedy uncles and so much slapstick. I started off enjoying a scene where a fat middle aged don and a fat middle aged cop started fighting but were puffed within a few blows. It was funny and believable as these old adversaries tried to face off. But then it went on and on and on, then added another bumbling policeman and there was a kind of bumble-off and that went on for too long and meanwhile there was a timebomb ticking away but hey, let’s go back to the bumble-off. There are ways of building tension and using comedy to defuse it while still maintaining the momentum. Santoshi doesn’t seem to know any of them.

Phata-Poster-Nikhla-Hero-colour and movement

The soundtrack by Pritam is serviceable. None of the songs have made much of an impression on me for the music alone. “Tu Mere Agal Bagal Hai” is more memorable for the excellent colour and movement and Chihuahua inspired choreo, and Dhating Nach for the inexplicable inclusion of Nargis Fakhri as the item girl. The thing I remember most is not the soundtrack so much as the background soundtrack. It is such a busy, noisy film. Every single gesture is underscored with a chord, a whistle, a trill, a whole freaking orchestra duelling in every conversation. Bosco-Caesar handled the choreography and when they could get Shahid on his own, they gave him decent material to work with. But I guess they gave up on the ladies and went for draping them over trees, or Shahid, in preference to actual dance steps.

Overall I felt that Rajkumar Santoshi couldn’t decide what to concentrate on so he just did a bit of everything and thought that was vintage masala style. Good masala still has pace and purpose. If a character is leading a double life, that can be revealed to heighten the drama or add a twist. But in this case a “twist” was revealed before it needed to be, then was reiterated by several supporting characters in conversations with each other. It was clumsy and again, made the pace drag. Also I take issue with villains who have no sound business plan and seem to plot destruction just for the sake of being bad. Also – what kind of doomsday bomb needs a sophisticated detonator but also has a big red “on” button and an equally big blue ‘off’ button? A comedy bio-weapon, that’s what. I didn’t find it all hilarious and I couldn’t take the supposed jeopardy very seriously.

This is an honest, if unsuccessful attempt at a good all round entertainment and I liked some elements a lot. If you’re a Shahid fan, you’ll like his performance regardless. If you have a tolerance for stupid comedy and slapstick, you’ll find much more to love than I did. Worth a watch, but would be just as good on DVD.

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