Munna Michael: A wasted opportunity of Nawaz-Tiger jugalbandi

There’s an obvious chalk and cheese element to Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Tiger Shroff’s pairing.

One started out as an extra and moved his way up to become one of the finest actors in the country, another is a star son whose three films-long showreel mirrors the monotony of the quintessential Bollywood hero.

The two men could not be more different aside from the fact that they have both been judged for their unconventional looks at some point.

You’d imagine director Sabbir Khan would play on their dissimilarity to create moments of genuine frolic and oddball bonhomie. But its staggeringly passé, pedestrian humour and unoriginal script ruin any chance of that happening.

A wasted opportunity at best, Munna Michael sponges off plot points from countless movies about romantic triangles, khiladi-anari chemistry, small-town ambitions, obsessive lover-boys, BFF betrayals and dance competitions till it resembles a recycled mess that’s neither dazzling nor droll.

By the end of its close to two-and-a-half hours running time, I was completely sapped by the dull jokes, lacklustre choreography and phony melodrama.

To be fair, there’s promise in its premise. The idea of playing on strengths and weakness by casting a newbie as a mentor and the master as a fledgling is a curious one. If done with smarts, the subversion can be a trailblazer, but when it’s as muddle headed as Munna Michael, the experience is as absurd as the likelihood of Miyagi taking karate lessons from LaRusso.

Quite early on, Munna Michael announces the kind of sensibility it’s aiming for after a freshly fired Bollywood background dancer (Ronit Roy) picks up an abandoned baby from the dump in the middle of a rainy night and raises him like his own.

The kid grows up (Tiger Shroff) to inherit his father’s love for Michael Jackson’s iconic moves and grabs every chance to remind us why imitation is the best form of flattery.

After all the nightclubs in Mumbai show him and his boogie-woogie cronies the door, the ever smirking Shroff shifts to Delhi and takes a Haryanvi hoodlum hotelier (Nawaz) under his wings. The latter is seeking a crash course in dancing to win over a bar dancer (Niddhi Agerwal) although he’s married and she’s half his age.

It’s the most trivially treated snag in a storyline that goes wild weaving a complexity that its makers are none too adept to handle.

Munna Michael‘s hollowness is as striking as Tiger’s chiselled torso, one that he freely bares in everything from an unzipped hoodie to a doily masquerading as a shirt. Can’t say I am surprised. What’s shocking is the lack of wit.

The only bit of unintended hilarity occurs in the form of filmmaker Farah Khan’s hammy ‘Oh my God’ cries while judging a reality dance show alongside Chitrangda Singh (clearly a fan of Michael Jackson-inspired make-up if not dance) and Shaan.

Given its penchant for dance, there’s zero rhythm in the film’s humour. It may be positioned as a comedy — Nawaz and Pankaj Tripathi, as his overweening younger brother, do try their best to keep things madcap — but Sabbir Khan’s teetering timing, glaring ineptitude for farce and two stiff leads make it a slog to sit through.

As the humourless contrast to an exuberant Nawaz, Tiger struggles to find a balance between straight and amused.  Nawaz embraces the spirit of a character for what it is and has fun with it when necessary. There’s a difference between playing serious and acting serious, something Tiger is yet to grasp. 

Every single time he’s worked under Sabbir (Heropanti, Baaghi), his performance is a replica of the previous collaboration. When in his comfort zone though — dance and dishoom — Tiger’s a livewire. And that’s why I wish the makers had put some more imagination in the steps, which are nothing but rehashed bits of MJ and Hrithik Roshan’s best known moves.

At some point, Tiger points at a mannequin to describe his co-star Nidhhi Agerwal. I am sticking to that description.

Back in the day, the Mithun Chakraborty and Bappi Lahiri combo pulled off a great deal of bunkum on the strength of their unapologetic love for kitsch and camp.

The Millennial Mithun may be a better dancer, but he is tone deaf and has little individuality.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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