Vinay Pathak, as an actor, at once elicits the fool-drudgery associated with the cinematic legend ('comedic' being too small a term) Peter Sellers and the whole-heartedness of the late great Raj Kapoor. A lethal combination, one would agree, if there is a light-hearted film to be made that duly revolves around the antics of one naive character bumbling his way through the cruel ways of the world with a goofy grin on his face and a laugh to boot. His career truly began to take shape with the release of Bheja Fry back in 2005 and from Dasvidaniya to Oh my God (an unparalleled disaster) to even Chalo Dilli, most filmmakers are now writing their films with Bharat Bhushan in their mind, and not Pathak. Sooner or later, he will have to give up his ways (very effective, though) simply because we know what to expect when we see him cast as the lead.
Here, he is back to where it all started albeit on a slightly larger scale. Alright, much larger. The setup is not restricted to one bungalow anymore, and rightfully so. Bheja Fry 2 is a much-awaited sequel to the film that kickstarted the trend of the current low-budget boom that has invaded Bollywood. Oddly enough, that novel concept has been abandoned for this long overdue follow-up. But then we're not talking about a first-time director anymore, are we? Why, even YRF and Balaji have been forced to jump onto the lakh-not-crore bandwagon. Hence, it is safe to say that expectations will be high, inspite of the fact that Bheja Fry, 'inspired' from the French film Le Diners de Cons (1998) was not original. At all.
Bheja Fry 2 falls short of expectations - although it's weakness (being a successor to the 'original') is also its clear strength. Not exactly a sequel in the true sense, more like another episode in a TV series,we see Bharat Bhushan hitting bigtime in more ways than one. He does manage to retain most of the character traits that made him a huge hit sometime back and displays them with gay abandon over the entire length of the film, and not even the exponential budget deters him from playing the lovable fool once again.
Director Sagar Bellary takes his time to get into the groove effectively creating a scenario and a motive for most characters within the first 20 minutes. The first half chugs along, especially when things start to get messy on the cruise ship. Pathak creates some genuinely funny Pink Panther moments and the lack of sound effects or background score creates a natural atmosphere: a decent throwback to the 60s when it was the quickfire dialogue exchanges and the smart writing that did all the talking (no pun intended). Of course, everything is relative nowadays and one cannot help but be thankful for these subtle changes in the era of Salman and Sajid. The surnames shall remain a secret for fear of being lured, bullied or slaughtered.
Sadly enough, the story goes South in the second half and the script seems to have been finished under (presumably) intense pressure. With an entire island at your disposal, it is possible that some sort of relaxation creeps in with way too many options to choose from. To still stick to Bhushan's traits on foreign shores shows a level of consistency and even faith, but the intentional repetition of his foolish antics begins to take a toll on the viewer. Agreed, that the verbal diarrhea-induced irritation is part of what his character is about, but even Pathak cannot save himself from sounding forced by the end of the second hour. Bellary's previous venture Kaccha Limboo, too, similarly lost steam after the first half and the charming little moments that were initially a breath of fresh air had quickly descended into a predictable gush of Biryani-induced burps by the end of the film. There could be a trend here. Just saying.
The hardest part, as a director (and writer) is wrapping the shiny gifts up painstakingly in the first half so that unraveling the ribbons later might seem as smooth as Amole Gupte's bare legs. (yes, notice them) And if you're technically sound and a good fixer-upper, there is no reason why your third act should resemble a tangent that resembles Uday Chopra's acting career - or career, in general.
Having said that, what really rescues the film from falling into cinematic oblivion after a promising start punctuated by Bhushan's insufferable voice cheerfully tearing apart Burman classics with utmost sincerity is the smart casting coup that Bellary and crew have pulled off. Both the Menons (Kay Kay and Suresh) are so effective as the corrupt hotshot and the holier-than-thou IT officer respectively, that even the immensely forgettable cameos by Aditi Govitrikar and Virendra Saxena (as pervert Chachu) could be forgiven. The multi-faceted Suresh Menon as Bhushan's honest-to-God IT South Indian colleague steals the show in this film. The very idea of his single-minded discrete Inspector Clouseau-style hounding of his prized IT offender in spite of some seriously inane moments happening around him is truly hilarious. Again, it is the situational humour that takes front seat with the slapstick and hamming left to an over-the-top Amole Gupte. It could be that Gupte's role was not properly defined, but his eccentricities (or attempt at it) and loud madness was more tonsil-tickling than rib-tickling. Minissha Lamba is enthusiastic in her bit role as the girl most likely to receive the Bhushan Punch. *wink*
Today's comedies have so much money riding on them, that most directors tend to completely overlook (sometimes, intentionally) the importance of the smaller aspects of filmmaking, however outlandish the set up may be. One of those aspects is dialogue-delivery. While people like Suneil Shetty and Bobby Deol are true villains as far as this is concerned, there are actors like Kay Kay Menon and even Shah Rukh Khan (to an extent) that make the most ridiculous of lines sound very natural and believable even. We, as an audience, must relate to what they say and the way they say it and a studied delivery never helps, with a certain amount of improvisation and arrogance always required. Inspite of Kay Kay's grey shades (much like Rajat Kapoor in Bheja Fry), it is hard not to sympathize with his plight due to the sheer frustration and hopelessness in his voice after a while. As the seedy smart-talking businessman Ajit Talwar, Kay Kay illustrates that comedy is not always about punchlines or witty dialogue. It could simply be about consistent body language.
Finally, Bheja Fry 2 is a tale of two halves. In popular terms (read selling out), it resembles the famous T20 specialist (and talented) Robin Uthappa stroking his way to a score of 30 in no time and inexplicably freezing for no valid reason. Pacing an innings is the name of the game, and as corny as it sounds, a brisk start is just not enough nowadays. Even if your name is Bheja Fry, too.
- Reel Reptile