As a film, it works overall despite the flawed screenplay and the overdone gimmicks like animation, excessive VFX and DI and what-have-you. Somewhere in the confusion, director Vikas Bahl, the man who made two landmark films, “Chillar Party” (with a co-director) and “Queen,” wants to tell a different story in a tried-and-tested genre and ends up telling it decently.
Though Bahl denied it in an interview, there is the clear influence of P.G. Wodehouse in the storyline, as the story is not only set in the unworldly beauty of the English countryside but is a comic tussle between funny characters (some with uncongenial intentions) and essentially a story of the rich gentry, some of whom are actually paupers.
The Indian angle is integrated with family values, affairs, business deals posing as matrimonial alliances, a tyrannical matriarch, and a great fat Punjabi-Sindhi alliance with loads of dance, music and the insanity of a destination wedding by the rich, even if, as in this case, they are not rich at all!
Bipin Arora (Pankaj Kapur, magnificent) is the dominated son of Dadimaa (Sushma Seth), and has two daughters, Alia (Alia Bhatt) and Isha (Sanah Kapur). Dadimaa seems to deal mainly in forging marriages, and a wedding with a chauvinistic man (Vikas Verma), who is Indian name-throwing tycoon Harry Fundwani (Sanjay Kapoor)’s brother. Ironically, the wedding is named “Shaandaar” (Grand)! Dadimaa aims to gain hue money from a business alliance with a man who claims that Queen Elizabeth is a personal buddy!
The scale of the event needs a wedding organizer named Jagjinder Joginder (named as a combination of his parents’ names and played by Shahid Kapoor), and the fun and games begin when JJ (as he is known) has a minor crash with Bipin’s vehicle. During this rendezvous, JJ sees Alia, and it is love at first sight, and there’s quick reciprocation from her.
Bipin sees red, though he himself wants to run away from his mother along with his daughters. He does this ultimately, and how and when is what the film is about. Of course, a long introductory animation sequence shows that Alia was adopted by Bipin as a kid — but thereby hangs a tale connected with his mother.
Meanwhile, the story tracks the romance between Alia and JJ, both of whom are confirmed insomniacs, the crazy Arora-Fundwani alliance, and the love between father and daughters and the two sisters and a wedding planned right but gone wrong.
It is in the packaging that Bahl and his writers go wrong — excessive use of technology was one hitch, the length (2.25 hours) another. Correction: it’s not the length but what is filled up within — the childish antics, the scenic silly scenes and more. We know Bahl shot the film before “Queen” was released, but we wish he had kept the editing as tight as that film and, even more, “Chillar Party.” The pre-interval five to seven minutes are absurd and a complete bore, and the film picks up from the ‘qawwali’ and ends well. Bahl wanted to make a fairytale and should have taken a more cerebral approach!
What we can sense is that Bahl and his team tried their best to reinvent the mainstream successful entertainment formula, but here they fail as much as other young names do when they vainly try and redefine for the pan-Indian young and urban audience. Bahl’s only credit is that he does not make a film that makes you wish for a quick end, and changes the potentially passé genre of a rom-com into a worthy family drama that is also a comedy.
But in dialogues as well as other small nuances (like a courier van with the logo “FedUp” exactly written like “FedEx”!), this one’s more like an English film. And that has always been a downer!
Along with Amit Trivedi’s music and Amitabh Bhattachary’s fine lyrics (the ‘qawaali’ and “Raita Phail Gaya” excel), the film’s production design stands out. Anil Mehta’s camerawork is too picture postcard types, when not further damaged by the DI and VFX gimmicks. Anvita Dutt’s dialogues vary in calibre and pick up intermittently.
Bahl extracts good to better performances from all, especially Pankaj Kapur as mentioned. Shahid Kapoor is excellent too, and Sanah Kapur, his real sister, quite a find. Bhatt keeps on evolving, and Sanjay Kapoor is good fun despite the hamming. A brilliant turn is put in by the gay brother of Pankaj Kapur, whose name is not prominently displayed.
Some cakes are too exotic for popular consumption. And then these ‘bakers’ must realize that not all exotica are better than the more populist form of (screen) confections.
Fox Star Studios, Dharma Productions and Phantom Productions present “Shaandaar”
Produced by: Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, Madhu Mantena and Vikramaditya Motwane
Directed by: Vikas Bahl
Written by: Vikas Bahl, Chaitally Parmar and Anvita Dutt
Music: Amit Trivedi
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Pankaj Kapur, Sanah Kapur, Sanjay Kapoor, Sushma Seth, Vikas Verma, Diljit Dosanjh, Anjana Sukhani, Karan Johar and others