May Issue 2013

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 6 years ago

A good comedy film can be the perfect antidote to a bad day. It can leave you feeling refreshed and happy — you get to laugh at life’s absurdities from the safety of your cinema seat. At its best, it will make you look at the world in a different way. At the very least, it will make you laugh. Chashme Badoor manages to accomplish exactly none of these things — unless ‎you count making you laugh at how awful it is.

Even judging by the standards of the mindless comedy genre that seems to be the staple of Bollywood, David Dhawan’s remake of the 1981 flick of the same name fails pretty badly. With lazy writing, barely any semblance of a storyline and characters about as complex as balloon animals, it makes you wonder whether Dhawan actively worked toward the movie being this awful — this level of stupidity couldn’t just happen by accident.

The story, or what little there is of it, revolves around two friends, Jai (Siddharth) and Omi (Divyendu Sharma), who are perpetually prowling for women. Both of them catch the eye of the new girl on the block, Neha (Tapsee Pannu), who predictably falls for their more sensible friend Sid (Ali Zafar). Jai and Omi then proceed to spend the rest of the movie trying to thwart Sid’s chances of getting the girl. There is also a B-story involving Rishi Kapoor and Lilete Dubey falling in love, but it is equally insipid and adds nothing to the main story. Comedies can work well with a minimalist plot, provided that the script is sharp and has smart dialogue and witty one-liners.

Unfortunately, what we get instead are cringe-inducing puns and the most obvious in-your-face jokes possible. In an effort to insult the audience’s intelligence even further, almost every joke is immediately followed by a character spelling it out, just in case you missed it the first time. All this is in addition to the usual slapstick Bollywood humour of people getting slapped around for no reason, complete with dramatic sound effects.

Not a single scene is wasted developing any of the characters beyond their stereotypical caricature — the scantily-clad girl with a heart of gold and zero brains, the oversexed sidekicks whose comedic repertoires are filled with fart jokes, the uptight father who gets in the way of true love. There is no meaningful conversation between either the friends or the budding lovers, which makes is hard to buy into any of the relationships at all.

Given the material the actors had to work with, it is difficult to blame them for their performances. Zafar is the most tolerable because his performance is not quite as high-pitched and farcical as the others. Debuting actress Pannu is irritating, but this may be in large part due to the fact that she spends most of the film mindlessly saying “Dam hai boss” in response to everything any other character says to her.

There are other things inherently wrong with the film as well — how, for example, the guys’ attempts at getting as many girls as possible are seen as lovable and heroic while the girl’s even alleged acceptance of these sexual advances is portrayed as something abhorrent. (This is, in fact, the main conflict of the film. The lovers break apart because Jai is convinced by his friends that Neha’s character must be weak because she let them flirt with her). But with a film which is filled with crass jokes and raunchy humour, sexism and objectification of women is an expected part of the package.

Bottom line: There is no reason for this movie to ever have seen the light of day, let alone be seen by human eyes.

This review was originally published in Newsline’s May 2013 issue under the headline, “Slovenly Slapstick.”

Nudrat Kamal teaches comparative literature at university level, and writes on literature, film and culture.