If absurdity is the definition of humour, I’d rather see pigs fly.
Instead I am watching Happy New Year, Shah Rukh Khan’s big-budget Diwali release this year.
Here, a group of six Indians aspire to win an international dance competition as well as steal prized diamonds from a high-security vault in Dubai. Of course, five out of this aforementioned lot are non-dancers and part of the meticulous master plan is to strip and stand on a pile of cast clothing if one cannot reach the height of a vault wall screw.
One (Shah Rukh Khan) is a graduate from, no kidding, Boston University and (I don’t know) a victim of recession? Two (Sonu Sood) is an ex-armyman and hard of hearing, a complaint that miraculously vanishes in the second half of the film. Three (Boman Irani) is a Parsi bachelor still living with his nagging mom (Daisy Irani) and suffers from 30-second fits every now and then. Four (Vivaan Shah) is a computer geek who can ‘hackofy’ anything. Five (Abhishek Bachchan) is a street-smart lout and drunkard with a superhuman capacity to vomit, in slo-mo, no less. Six (Deepika Padukone) is a sizzling cabaret dancer who cannot speak English ‘eajeeeily’ but fancies anyone who does.
Despite the silliness of its premise and convenient absence of CCTVs in an upscale hotel’s elevator, there is a potentially fun story somewhere in this clutter, which is completely lost to accommodate choreographer-turned-filmmaker Farah Khan’s love for excesses.
Revenge, dance-offs, patriotism, romance, Parsi humor, tapori gags, gay jokes (Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Dadlani like never before), bar dancer with girl-next-door values, high-concept heist, triumph of underdogs, product placements and countless Bollywood references — Happy New Year carelessly packs in everything in sight but fails to substantiate it with the zest or repartee that made the over-the-top buffoonery of Main Hoon Naa or Om Shanti Om amusing.
Crowds hurling rotten fruits on characters, the ancient face-smashed-in-cake shtick, grownup guys stumbling all over in tutu skirts or a trivial dig on a Saroj Khan clone, the slapstick horseplay here is akin to a parent making a fool of one self to pacify or distract his/her kid. Yet the liberal use of double-entendres isn’t exactly child-friendly.
Low on wit, quirk and imagination, Happy New Year wears stupidity like a medal — embarrassingly content with its self-congratulatory tone that references Farah’s own films as well as Dharmendra’s sleek diamond quest caper Shalimar, Rajesh Khanna’s Kutti cheez catchphrase in Raja Rani, Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘chor baap’ woes from Deewar, Don’s invincible ‘mushkil hi nahi namumkin’ charisma, SRK’s ‘Sattar Minute’ speech in Chak De! India, Madhuri Dixit’s iconic Mohini from Tezaab and brother Sajid Khan’s “Ha Ha Hee Hee” brand of cinema in a manner so tedious, it’s a waste.
For a script that gives solid importance to spectacle and boasts of a director who’s among India’s prominent choreographers, the showmanship leaves a lot to be desired.
Vishal-Shekhar’s soundtrack doesn’t hit a single winning note and the choreography is shockingly lacklustre. Just putting up a garish visual palette, which throws every variety of gold and tinsel on screen doesn’t translate to opulence. Even Dubai’s majestic Atlantis, where Happy New Year is predominantly filmed, is barely exploited to its full potential.
Happy New Year is watchable in parts but its three hours and plus running time (it’s 179 minutes actually but feels like eternity) makes it woefully difficult. I looked at my watch and about 70 minutes are purely spent in introducing its six main protagonists.
On their part, the cast does its best to make up for the scarcity of technical finesse and zany sense of humour with their affectionate chemistry. As the leader of the pack, SRK looks completely home. His wardrobe may resemble a disco ball (when he’s not flaunting a sickeningly sculpted torso) but the actor is unusually restrained for a Farah Khan sensibility.
A suave Jackie Shroff, as his nemesis, exudes quiet menace but Happy New Year doesn’t seem to care. Too little of him, too inconsequential.
Deepika Padukone is way better styled than the movie and makes most of her presence. Though, I admit, I have gotten used to seeing her in better stuff.
If Boman Irani is repetitive, Sonu Sood is overtly excitable, both get on the nerves.
Vivaan Shah keeps it normal but doesn’t have much to do.
It’s Abhishek Bachchan, free from the expectations of hero or sidekick, who has the most fun with Happy New Year. He’s least conscious and goes all out injecting some droll action in an increasingly drab movie.