review happy bhag jayegi

The cast of “Happy Bhag Jayegi”: (l-r) Ali Fazal, Momal Sheikh, Abhay Deol and Diana Penty

MUMBAI — This one’s among our funniest films in recent times, a fitting successor to “Tanu Weds Manu Returns” and “Piku” and that brand of wholesome, realistic, genuinely funny situational comedies that also pack some emotional wallop, explore small-town (Amritsar) culture and now goes on to explore Pakistani culture in a positive, refreshing way that adds to the humor rather than reduce it—that too, without offending them or downgrading our own countrymen.

As with the serious yet humor-laden “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” this film just keeps the hostilities and political issues as an undertone that only surfaces with some dry humor, like the Pakistani cop Usman Afridi (Piyush Mishra), initially paranoid about India, tells one of the characters, “Ask me anything, except about Kashmir,” or Happy’s father’s (Kanwaljeet Singh) remark, something that many Indians feel when angry but used here with humorous relevance, “Why do these people heed only the gun?”

It all begins with a love story in Amritsar, between Guddu (Ali Fazal), who dreams of being a singer but does little else, and his childhood love Happy (Diana Penty). They want to marry, but Happy’s father wants her to marry the hot-headed, unscrupulous corporator, Bagga (Jimmy Sheirgill). Happy and Guddu decide to run away, but their plan misfires.

This is the time there is a peace initiative and Indians are sending gifts to Paksitan through the Pakistani politician (Jawed Sheikh) in huge containers, and by mistake Happy ends up in that truck and lands up in Lahore in his house!

Discovering her is the politician’s son Bilal (Abhay Deol), who actually wanted to be a cricketer but cannot assert himself in front of his dad, who dreams of his son becoming a second ‘Jinnah’ and changing the destiny of Pakistan. Bilal is even betrothed to another politician’s daughter Zoya (Momal Sheikh), but it is more of a convenient union.

Initially, Bilal thinks that Happy is a complete lunatic, and she is also looked upon suspiciously by his fiancée, but due to a key reason not revealed until well in the second half, he decides to help Happy unite with her boyfriend Guddu by bringing him there from Amritsar and marrying them off.

Trouble is, Guddu is under a kind of house arrest by the enraged Bagga, who thinks that he has kidnapped his to-be bride, and Bilal ropes in cop Sharif to go to Amritsar and pose as music concert organizers. Of course, anything that comes out in the open about Happy being in Lahore in Bilal’s house can jeopardize the political prospects of father and son.

The humor is consistent, the dialogues first-rate. Technically competent, it has good music used reasonably well (producer Rai does not believe in lip-synch songs, but that, in this case at least, is okay) and the background music (Sohail Sen again) is nicely done.

Director-writer (and lyricist) Mudassar Aziz makes us forget the past calamity he wrote and directed (“Dulha Mil Gaya”) and comes into his own as a dependable director, whose next project should be truly interesting, given his sense of screenplay (almost flawless, fast-paced and entertaining), lyrics (well-written on the whole) and dialogues (exceptional).

Aziz etches brilliant characters and Abhay Deol puts in his best performance after “Socha Na Tha” and “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” as Bilal. His timing is superb, as is his rather nervous conduct in front of his aggressive yet kind father as well as his fiancee. Ali Fazal and Diana Penty are uninhibitedly competent, especially Fazal. And Penty’s expressive eyes make up for whatever shortcomings there may be in her performance.

In a straight role of a gray character with a bit of quirky goodness in him, Sheirgill is again a powerful performer as Bagga. Momal Sheikh, with an uncanny resemblance to ‘80s - ‘90s heroine Farah (Tabu’s older sister) is adequate, but far better than any Pakistani actress we have hitherto seen in Hindi cinema. Her father, returning to our screens after a gap, is as likeable as ever.

Mishra is stupendous, his comic timing impeccable, and such a great relief after all the dark-hued characters he tends to play. In smaller roles, the actors playing Deol’s mom and maternal uncle, Zoya’s father, Guddu’s friend and Bagga’s Pakistani accomplice are effectively humorous.

Do not miss this one. The flaws and loose ends are quite minor and can be completely overlooked in this super enjoyable fun fest. For me, producer Aanand L. Rai and Eros have scored a distinguished hat-trick after “Tanu Weds Manu Returns” and “Nil Battey Sannata.”

Rating: ****

Eros International and Colour Yellow Productions present ‘Happy Bhag Jayegi’

Produced by: Aanand L. Rai and Krishika Lulla

Written and Directed by: Mudassar Aziz

Music: Sohail Sen

Starring: Abhay Deol, Jimmy Sheirgill, Ali Fazal, Diana Penty, Momal Sheikh, Kanwaljeet Singh, Piyush Mishra, Jawed Sheikh and others.

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