From timeless films Andaz Apna Apna and Hera Pheri, to the hairbrained, over exaggerated but funny films that came out as a result of the post-Dabangg domino effect, Bollywood has its variety of comedy movies. The element that saves such films from criticism (and simultaneously becomes a formulae for box office success), are the actors — lead actors act silly with the help of special effects, and (in most cases) police uniforms.
Director Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Phata Poster Nikla Hero tries to earn a spot in this league of extraordinary money-making films. But apart from its marketing, everything else falls flat. Santoshi chooses to tell the done and dusted story of a kid who wants to make it big in Bollywood. Vishwas’s mother is a law-abiding rickshaw driver, who pays traffic fines even if she is not asked to do so. Perturbed by her husband’s ill doings as a police officer, she wants Vishwas to become an honest police officer. To achieve that, she sends him to Mumbai for police training. Grown-up Vishwas (Shahid Kapoor), as per expectations, starts pursuing his dream of becoming an actor. One day, as he walks out of a photo session in a police uniform, he is forced into fighting goons by a persistent social worker Kajal (Illeana D’ Cruz). The rest you can easily figure out.
The actual story takes too much time and too many stereotypes to kick-start, and that is the reason the first laughable pun comes almost 20 minutes into the film. If you’re an impatient viewer, you’ll have a difficult time getting through it. The film does pick up later on, especially in a scene where Salman Khan (as himself) is chased by Vishwas dressed as a police officer. Vishwas is actually chasing him to get an autograph, but the hilarious Salman is perplexed, trying to recall what crime he is being chased for. Santoshi, of Andaaz Apna Apna fame, even hints the possible casting of Aamir and Salman Khan in the sequal to Andaaz Apna Apna within the film. Also, Santoshi adds a remixed version of Raabert (a character in Andaaz Apna) to this movie, in the form of Dr Vinod Khanna. However, all these gimmicks add very little humour to a film that should have been hilarious after the promotional hype.
Shahid tries to extract as much as he can from a lacklustre script. It’s primarily his character, which he thoroughly does justice too, along with comic timing, that gives you something to laugh at. The scenarios presented throughout the movie are funny, but not innovatively written. Illeana, on the other hand, looks quite average, and after a spectacular job in Barfi!, the hairdo and hollow character make her look like a less talented version of Amrita Rao. She can act and look much better.
Mika Singh’s Akal Bagal is a catchy and well-performed upbeat song, but skin stands out more than skill in Nargis Fakhri’s forgettable item song. Tu Rang Sharbaton Ka by Atif should be a hit, but they shouldn’t have offered him a second song. Listening to Atif back-to-back becomes annoying, especially when the film isn’t living up to expectations.
If Chennai Express is a recent brainless comedy to compare to, Phatta Poster Nikla Hero lies much lower on the spectrum. The men will have to wait a while to see Fakhri’s item number, and families will doze off trying to figure out what’s happening.
Verdict: Shahid Kapoor tries his best to put some energy into an otherwise deficient script, making it one of the most over-hyped yet under-delivered action comedies in recent times.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2013.