Saturday, December 04, 2010

Phas gaye re, Obama! - A movie review

One of the biggest troubles Hindi movies (both commercial masala wallah types and the 'off beat' non-profit sort of ventures) have had is to dish out genuine comedies. Either they end up trying too hard using 'inspired laughs' from popular streams or they go over the top and plug in superhuman antiques lacing it with inane slapstick. Having, unfortunately, seen Golmaal 3, Dabangg and its kind recently, I was quite skeptical about 'Phas gaye re Obama' (PGRO) purely because of its blatant effort to somehow link the story to Barrack Obama. And of course, also that it had Neha Dhupia. She is certainly one of the best eye candies out there but I've never associated her with the concept of humor. But nevertheless, being the optimistic that I tend to be at times, I decided to give it a look-see.

The story unfolds in two separate tracks. One, that of an NRI (Rajat Kapoor) who has settled well with a wife and kids in the United States for the last 15 years and is shown to have been a successful businessman. Now, with global recession making its way into every possible financial crack, he is on the brink of bankruptcy and sees no other option than to sell off an ancestral home in his hometown in rural India. The second track, is that of a motley assortment of low budget gangsters who live in the same town. These men are traditionally into kidnapping and extortion but are facing immensely tough times with no money to even buy bullets. The two protagonists, hence, are brought together by fate. The kidnappers, not realizing the NRI's money situation, kidnap him and dream that his family in the United States will shell out a good amount of dollars to get him back. It takes an actual conversation with his wife in America for them to realize that he is as broken as they are. It is then, that the businessman's money minded brain and the ambitiousness of one of the gangsters starts mushrooming into a series of events where they come up with a nearly fool-proof scheme where everyone wins. It is in this merry go around of changing hands, that the hilarity of the movie becomes evident.

The premise is quite original. Showcasing the organized crime that takes place in the inner towns of India while juxtaposing it against a more global concept like recession is indeed a feat one should congratulate director Subhash Kapoor for. Add to it the simplicity of the small town India where people link everything American automatically to Obama and the FBI and the circle is complete. It is in such naivete and blissful ignorance that a crime as serious as kidnapping takes a more comic turn. If there is one reason why I'd recommend a definite one-time watch of this movie, it would be for such an accomplishment.

Performances belong to pretty much everyone with, again, Neha Dhupia standing out slightly as the odd woman out. I say woman because of her hate-all-men mantra as Gabbar Singh inspired Munni gangster(minus the Zhandu Balm,thankfully) avatar in the film. Sanjay Mishra is quite convincing as the aging and broke kidnapper kingpin who nurtures dreams of making it as a politician and breaking chairs in the Parliament. Manu Rishi (from Oye Lucky!) is back with his genuine dialog delivery and sincere yet effortless Dilliwallah style acting. Rajat Kapoor, however, takes the cake in this mixed bag of cronies playing the calm and collected NRI who is always a step ahead of the rest of the gang despite having had no prior experience with scheming kidnapping agendas. Just goes to show why an educated crook is much more dangerous than an illiterate one.

The film is devoid of needless songs (except a refreshingly welcome one as the credits roll) and stays focused on the plot the whole time. The pace tends to be a tad inconsistent at times but that could've been avoided with a tighter screenplay. The oscillating drama is stripped off of 'keep your brains at home' sort of humor and yet isn't a 'dark comedy' either. It runs a fine line between these two extremes by keeping itself simple and sane. A task most movies these days have absolutely no idea how to achieve without coming off as nonsensical. It is the subtleties that save PGRO from becoming contrived in its execution. A lesson, perhaps, for folks attempting comic reliefs in the future.

Recommendation: Go watch it. Yes, you can.

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