Why do filmmakers option the rights of a film and then do everything to assert their version has nothing to do with the original to dodge comparisons? This fallacy is not only disappointing but lazy too.
I mean, if you are bold enough to touch a realized product, why not acknowledge your enthusiasm for the source or explain the inclination to alter it?
Director Abhishek Sharma’s The Shaukeens is a retelling of Basu Chatterjee’s 1982 film and adding The in front and s behind Shaukeen doesn’t make that any less conspicuous.
It too begins with a voiceover, by its star and producer Akshay Kumar (in an extended cameo), introducing the viewer to its three 60-plus, Delhi-based, central characters (Anupam Kher, Annu Kapoor, Piyush Mishra) and their lecherous preoccupation with women less than half their age.
What perhaps distinguishes them from roadside eve teasers is that their disparaging dissection of single and married young women is confined to muffled whispers whereas sunglasses conceal their ogling gaze and disturbing lack of propriety.
But when this sex-starved troika holes up inside one of the friend’s farmhouse with the aim of experiencing more than an eyeful, it concludes in an evening of great embarrassment and a steadfast resolve to holiday in a more sex-accessible country.
Thai Capital of Bangkok, Tigmanshu Dhulia’s script vociferously insists, is too revealing of their intentions. They settle for the less obvious Mauritius and find an answer to their prayers in the leggy bohemian and homestay host, Lisa Haydon. Her character, a fashion designer who creates hats out of used tooth picks, is going through post-breakup blues but mostly because her ex is grabbing more likes and comments on Facebook.
When the wannabe philanderers discover she’s a crazy fan of Bollywood star Akshay Kumar (playing a boozy version of himself), they take turns to impress the airhead by devising loony schemes for a meeting.
The Shaukeens justifies their actions as an outcome of loneliness seeing as one’s wife (an under utilised Rati Agnihotri) has turned devout; another’s is dead and third never got married. Which would be acceptable if Kher, Kapoor or Mishra weren’t saddled with overstating, caricaturish characterisations that contribute adversely to their cause and render them shabby and irredeemable.
Mishra pouts and pants in coppery hair, striped pink undies and a gruff voice that labours in vain to bring back memories of a certain Jagdish Bhai. His ape evolution scene, however, is worth a chuckle even if it highlights the exact opposite.
Anupam Kher doesn’t bring anything new to a part that frequently feels overfamiliar on him. And Annu Kapoor’s high-strung, gaudy performance simply doesn’t add up.
In Chatterjee’s light-hearted commentary on ageing, the explicit need for companionship among its three friends triggers a wild craving of a sexual escapade to hilarious results. Much of this tricky premise succeeds because they’re more reluctant than raunchy, more decent than dirty, more blundering than bawdy and, most importantly, more Ashok Kumar, Utpal Dutt and A K Hangal than anyone else.
Sadly, the adaptation’s sole takeaway from the original is the sensational, lustful nature of its elderly trio, which translates into a smouldering Haydon flashing a lot of skin for the bikini-requesting guests in her home. Her free-spirited but scatter-brained humour fares better when she’s fawning over Akshay.
Even though there’s only 15-20 minutes of him in this 124-minutes long farce, the star (and his chart of expressions) emerges as its undisputed scene-stealer. As do some of his colleagues and family members who sportingly mock his celebrity as well as their own.
Abhishek Sharma’s competence in the satirical, evinced in Tere Bin Laden, extends into a tongue-in-cheek subplot around Akshay’s personal aspiration to win a National award by working under an idiosyncratic Bengali filmmaker (Subrat Dutta) against the good sense of his endorsement-pimping business manager (Cyrus Broacha providing a welcome relief from all the oversexed jokers) and commerce-obsessed director (an excellent Manoj Joshi) taking vicarious pleasure in his rival’s downfall.
Whenever Akshay appears on screen, The Shaukeens transforms into another movie – one that’s infinitely more comic, cheeky and winsome — it’s the one I enjoyed the most, it’s the one I wished I had come to see.