Film Review: Yamla Pagla Deewana

Directed by: Sameer Karnik

Starring: Dharmendra, Sunny Deol, Bobby Deol, Anupam Kher

All pictures courtesy of: http://www.yamlapagladeewana.com

Taking a parent to the cinema with you can be just as stressful as taking a child. Never mind the actual content of the film, for the reluctant  cinema going parent, there is a whole process to go through to get them from point A  (home) to point B (the cinema). After finally pinning down a date and time, the next stage comes in explaining away the cost (HOW MUCH??) and assuring said parent that the film is worth it without having seen it. Having finally negotiated all these obstacles, once in the cinema, it is all about where we sit and it would have been seen sod’s law that determined the screening was packed so we ended up in the second row from the screen.

Still, I was keen to take my mum with me to see Yamla Pagla Deewana, not only in answer to complaints that I don’t take her to the cinema enough (see above) but also as masala films are always much more fun with a companion – these are films in which it is acceptable to talk, make noise and react loudly as this enhances the atmosphere at the screening. So as we craned our necks and kept wiping our eyes (why is it the closer you sit to the screen, the more one’s eyes water?), it was time for the Deols to assemble together on screen once more after Apne.

YPD is the story of Paramveer (Sunny), an NRI residing in Canada who is sent to India by his mother to track down his father and brother  whom he was separated from at a young age. However, the father Dharam (Dharmendra) and son Gajodhar (Bobby) are two small time crooks running riot and when Paramveer tracks them down, Dharam sees Paramveer as a fraudster whilst Gajodhar sees Paramveer as a useful accessory in their scams. The story takes a turn when Gajodhar falls in love and really does need Paramveer’s help to win the object of his affection.

YPD is like a game of football, as we have a film of two halves and this is one of those uncommon films (though not a rare case) of the second half of the film being far superior to the first. The first half is in need of extensive rewriting and prudent editing and could easily have been scrapped to allow more time to the second half. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Sameer Karnik has done this – in his 2008 offering Heroes, we saw the same thing where after a false start, he was veering on excellence, only to burn out before the film had reached its conclusion. In the same way, there are two item numbers not needed, and the criminal waste of the Taj Mahal in a song should not be ignored either. I also felt the opening credits (narrated by Ajay Devgn) felt like an afterthought, trying to set the film up as a parody of melodramas of the past – we didn’t really get that till the second half with in jokes and silliness galore. Having said that, the second half undoes all the damage, showing us what Karnik does best – humour and emotional high points. Note the way the characters imagine incidents (ie Mary beating Paramveer with a caramboard) or a short clip is used to demonstrate a joke ( Joginder Singh shoots someone first, then asks what they had done). Though it is annoying we see a lot of these moments in the trailer for the film, they are very funny.Unlike Apne, YPD has no pretensions as to what it is – it is a hardcore masala entertainer that goes for laughs and entertainment.

Technically, the film is alright, with some interesting shots though I felt the film lacked finesse in its presentation but then this did not take anything away from the final product. Foot fetish fans will be in heaven in the most bizarre shot of the film which shows the soles of the leading trio’s feet causing many in the audience to remark how similar Dharamendra, Sunny and Bobby’s feet are. The styling actually matches the course of the film with nothing major to write home about in the first half save Bobby Deol’s sandals and the lumberjack/plaid shirts which are bang on trend. The second half is more fun, with lots of gorgeous ethnic wear including raw silk full length kurtas and even a PVC style kurta in a red and white square check design, plus there are many other crazy combos in lots of bright colours and prints.

Performance wise, Dharmendra has fun with his role and brings a gravitas and grace to it that is not given by the script or direction. I did feel having him leer and curse was unnecessary and uncomfortable to watch, particularly as he has an amazing body of work and even in recent times, we saw Life…In A Metro showcase his abilities well, so YPD is all about the fun factor and enjoying screen time with his sons. Bobby Deol makes a spirited effort in his role and sometimes succeeds but at other times, comes across as a weak link. I think Bobby has yet to be presented correctly and should follow the Dostana example where less is more as this suits him. Kulraj Randhewa who plays Saheba and supposedly introduces the “twist”, actually has very little to do in the film and is let down by inconsistent characterisation – she seems to have been given instructions to play the girl next door as simply as possible and in that respect, succeeds but this film is more about raising her profile than being an example of her talents. The other female leads all do well though – Emma Brown is hilarious as Mary, Nafisa Ali plays the mother with no embellishment and Sucheta Khanna steals nearly every scene that she is in playing the Canada enthusiast Poli.

However, there are two performances that really stand out and that is Sunny Deol and Anupam Kher. Sunny finally leaves his comfort zone and takes a risk, sending his on screen persona up but also playing his role with a degree of restraint and subtlety. I thought he was very watchable and like Dharmendra, added something to the role that wasn’t given to him, even though he appears to have the author backed role. I also liked that he goes gung ho for the dancing with varying results and his distinctive delivery of dialogue which makes his lines convincing and always has the desired effect. Similarly, Anupam Kher takes a stock character and makes Joginder Singh three dimensional so that one feels we recognise him and that he actually exists. Right from the first frame of the second half to the end of the film, Kher is in the zone and is a strong catalyst in the film’s recovery. He gets many laughs and is so sincere in his portrayal of Joginder Singh that there is even a hint of vulnerability detectable. Finally, like Sunny, Kher has a fantastic energy with all of the cast and really helps push YPD from being run of the mill fare to something more enjoyable and memorable.

Despite its shortcomings, YPD is a lot more fun than some of the mindless blockbuster comedies of late and with some more work, it might have even been a stronger film. Though the film is pitched as an out and out masala movie, as Dabaang proved, audiences want their masala made with gourmet ingredients and won’t settle for less. I think it is possible to make these kind of comedies to appeal across the board, perhaps by adding some social commentary or the pastiche of films which YPD could have exploited. The Deols have fun together on screen and have a fantastic synergy that forms the USP of the film. I think this is worth a watch in cinema or on DVD as it will entertain and is fun once expectations are relaxed.

Thankfully, my mum agreed with me and said the second half was much better too which was a relief because it made me realise, if filmmakers want to get people coming to cinemas on  regular basis, they need to learn to appeal to non-film lovers as well as faithful film lovers and I think going forward, as Hindi cinema keeps trying different things and broaches new topics, they also need to remember that our entertaining films need plenty of dimaag (brain) as well as dil (heart)…

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