Is it about the repercussions of recession and unemployment on qualified or laid-off contenders?
Is it a cautionary tale of materialistic, spendthrift, credit card-swiping yuppie lot?
Is it a long-running dispute between the values of a past generation versus the new?
Is about how to grab eyeballs by dressing its demure heroine in a neon pink bikini?
Or is it about the shifting man-woman ego and equation in terms of jobs and income?
Bewakoofiyaan, written by Habib Faisal and directed by Nupur Asthana, tries to be all these things. Therein lies its promise and problem.
It meshes too many ideas — relevant and recycled — to tell the story of Mohit (Ayushmann Khurana), a careless and overconfident junior executive of an airline company who’s handed a pink slip soon after he’s promoted as senior executive.
Professional woes can wait as Mohit is forced to deal with VK Sehgal, the unjustifiably cantankerous father (Rishi Kapoor) of her super successful fiancée Mayera (Sonam Kapoor) and pretend he’s still got his plush cabin in Gurgaon, setting the scene for some Shakespearean brand of comedic errors.
“Home Secretary mera batchmate tha,” he often threatens his potential son-in-law, places him on “probation” till he proves himself worthy in the recently retired IAS officer’s eyes and sulks like a baby throwing “Main tumse kabhi baat nahi karoonga” at his daughter if she goes against his wishes. The taunts, the intimidation, the sardonic tone – it’s all very Greg Focker.
Except Sehgal’s character gets dangerously grating at one point. The insufferable temperament trait is dragged on endlessly before Faisal and Asthana notice the urgency to tone it down and infuse him with some charm.
They’re fortunate to have Rishi Kapoor at their disposal — tempering down from ogre to overzealous with credibility. That childlike triumph and self-satisfaction he displays on learning to operate a computer and video game is absolutely precious. And if you have a parent who’s recently discovered the iPad, recognizable too.
Between the amusing Rishi Kapoor capsules, Bewakoofiyaan concentrates on the splurging, glamorous facet of Mohit and Mayera’s camaraderie.
Clearly, they like the good life – high street shopping, fine dining, clubbing, princess cut diamonds, holidaying at Oberoi’s Rajvilas. They do look like a couple comfortable in a relationship if not exactly in love. But this is a Bollywood film and the inherent practicality of these individuals has to be sugar coated with the veritability of an all-embracing romance. What makes it flimsy is the absence of any real insight despite the distress they go through.
What’s more interesting here is the debate of whether a woman making more money than a man is something to feel embarrassed about for the latter conditioned to play the provider since time immemorial.
While it’s a subject of snide remarks and proud fatherly sentiment for Sehgal, Mohit is only a wee surprised (border-lining on disappointment) to see Mayera flash Platinum over his Gold. But his self-esteem is hurt by something else, something I won’t write in this review. To hold a grudge over it, now that’s not a gender thing, that’s plain human.
Ayushmann Khurana and Sonam Kapoor make a fetching pair, enacting a rather believable fight in the car over a petty issue. Sonam’s chic persona is neatly adapted to suit Mayera, a stylish professional with a penchant to earn and burn. She does well but needs to work on her dialogue delivery, voice modulation and pacing of words unless she’s dubbing for Minnie Mouse.
Faisal is great with words but, here, their conversations try too hard to sound ‘I am from Delhi’ what with tossing and throwing of jarring phrases like ‘expi’ ‘sarci’ and ‘hottt lagri hai.’
Between daddy and darling, Bewakoofiyaan is also about a frustrated ‘suddenly idle’ fellow unable to find the job he deems himself worthy of. Refusing to settle for anything lesser doesn’t serve him in good stead and Ayushmann conveys this vexed feeling with effective punch.
Yet given the lumbering job market across India, it’s unsettling to see how casually the most serious aspect of this script is marred by one too many distractions.
That’s the trouble with the watchable but dispensable Bewakoofiyaan. It never quite establishes its chief motive. Instead Asthana’s tentative approach struggles to interrelate the pertinent issues, lend it dimensions and wisdom, resorting to simplistic conclusions when it cannot find the balance.
This review was first published on rediff.com.