Happy New Year (Farah Khan, 2014)
One of the things I dearly love about masala movies are the insanely convoluted plotlines – melodramatic twist upon ridiculous revelation upon unexpected u-turn. But there are the familiar conventions too – falsely imprisoned parents, abandoned children seeking vengeance, double roles!, criminal masterminds with secret or elaborate lairs, jewel heists, a go-go dancer with a heart of gold who falls in love with the hero…
So imagine my excitement at seeing the trailer for Happy New Year, Farah Khan’s most recent extravaganza. Not only did it appear to contain all the masala elements (and more!) that I detailed above, it boasted an all star cast that was particularly appealing: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Boman Irani, Sonu Sood and Abhishek Bachchan.
And CLINCHING the deal: based on the trailer – the film, though ostensibly a kind of desi Ocean’s Eleven type heist flick – was set AT A DANCE COMPETITION. Dance competition movies just happen to be basically one of my FAVOURITE THINGS EVER.
So based on the trailer, what I thought I was getting with Happy New Year was a film about some aspiring diamond thieves who definitely were not dancers, who, for whatever convoluted and ridiculous Bollywood reason, had to enter and win a dance contest to pull off their heist. Granted: the trailer I watched didn’t have subtitles and I only watched it once, so I might have made up this entire film in my head.
But I’d totally watch that movie! It sounds hilarious! Plus, as much as I love Abhishek (which is a lot, really really a lot), you and I both know dancing is not his strongest suit, so a film where he’s supposed to be an enthusiastic amateur (cough Jhoom Bharabar Jhoom) is basically CRACK to me.
FIRST MISTAKE: believing the trailer.
SECOND MISTAKE: watching the movie.
I hate to say this – because Om Shanti Om is, as I have documented so many times, the first Bollywood film I ever saw, and remains one of my very favourites to this day – but Happy New Year is an abomination. It’s one of the worst films I have ever seen and actually managed to watch all the way through. And it’s terrible, because it’s bad in that mediocre, just barely tolerable way, rather than being so egregious that one can turn it off in outrage, or being so hilariously bad it’s actually enjoyable.
Everything about it just feels off. The story is tired and old-fashioned without any kind of “new masala twist” to keep it interesting. It’s a diamond heist revenge tale. I can’t even remember the character’s names, because they were so….bleh. Jackie Shroff plays a rich guy who (inexplicably) framed Shah Rukh’s father (Anupam Kher) for robbery years earlier and got him thrown in jail, where he committed suicide when his appeal was declined. Shah Rukh has been planning his revenge all this time, and his planned revenge is to do to Jackie Shroff what Jackie Shroff did to Anupam Kher: e.g. frame him for robbery. So he gathers up a bunch of accomplices that Jackie Shroff has also wronged somehow – a drunk (Abhishek Bachchan) who can vomit on command; a buff explosives expert (Sonu Sood) who is “comically” deaf in one ear; and his father’s best friend (Boman Irani) who is an expert safecracker, but who suffers from some kind of stress induced epilepsy. Oh yeah, and another guy, like a 12 year old computer hacker. The plan is to go to Dubai, carry out this intricate heist on the safe where Jackie Shroff keeps his diamonds, framing him for the robbery. Except that there’s a dance competition on at the same time, so OBVIOUSLY they have to enter to attain access.
UM. NO THEY DON’T. EVERYTHING ABOUT THE PLOT IS MORE ILLOGICAL THAN USUAL.
Exhibit A: instead of devoting time and resources to becoming India’s entry for the World Dance championship, why don’t they just DISGUISE THEMSELVES so that Jackie Shroff won’t instantly recognise them? Since all it took for them to win the dance contest was for their hacking expert to hack the voting (and since he can apparently hack into EVERYTHING) why didn’t they just hack the security system in the building? Why the bullshit plot about the dance competition?
Because the dance competition is basically incidental to the plot and an excuse to shoehorn Deepika Padukone into the story as the dance teacher/love interest/misogynist joke punching bag, and throw a couple more songs in.
The thing is: everyone involved in this film is capable of far better. Everyone in this film DESERVES far better. Deepika Padukone, especially, deserves better than to be the inconsistent, idiotic love interest, who not once, not twice, but at least THREE TIMES walks in on Shah Rukh talking immensely disrespectful shit about her appearance, and how vulgar, and naive she is; but she just repeatedly gets upset, and falls in love with him anyway.
I would literally pay to watch Boman Irani read from a phone book, because I think he is wonderful. The only genuine joy I got from this film was a sight gag when hordes of women turn their noses up at a topless, flexing, supremely muscular Sonu Sood, because they are really leering at the far more adorable Boman Irani standing behind him. So it is genuinely painful that this film has such a gloriously talented actor reduced to being “the mama’s boy with a lisp and epilepsy” for laughs.
Abhishek Bachchan deserves better than a double role that casts him as a shambolic drunk, and an evil, mincing rich boy.
Shah Rukh deserves better than a role that has him pointlessly fall back on his prior Farah Khan outings (yes, we remember Main Hoon Na; yes, we remember Om Shanti Om; you don’t need to reference them ENDLESSLY) and rely on creepy, gimmicky abs.
Everyone deserves better than the cynically patriotic song proclaiming “hum hai indiawaale” shoehorned into the dance contest – it couldn’t be clearer that the filmmakers want and expected this to become an anthem. But it’s not…justified.
Farah Khan phoned it in on this one. It’s neither Happy, or New.