Writer-director Anees Bazmee brings in his usual cocktail of comic gangsters, a foreign base, limousines and standout traits in his principal characters in this mirthless melange of mayhem and madness. (photo provided)

MUMBAI — Comedies, as Anil Kapoor said recently, are serious business for its makers, writers and actors. In a different sense, it is the same case for us reviewers — assessing comedies is serious business. And for the audience, it’s even more: they are investing time and money on it.

And by every criterion, “Pagalpanti” is below-par. Severely so.

The basic plot may have some sameness, but an ingenious and truly mad script could have given us a superb entertainer. Writer-director Anees Bazmee brings in his usual cocktail of comic gangsters, a foreign base, limousines and standout traits in his principal characters, but shockingly, the writer of the 1993 classic “Aankhen” and the creator of the immortal “No Entry” and “Welcome” and so many other good to better entertainers forgets the essence—a good and sensible script.

As in “Mubarakan,” in which during his initial scenes there was a crass scene involving Ileana D’Cruz, but here the tastelessness, which includes unnecessary deaths by fire, from burning vehicles and of strangers not connected with the plot, goes to unacceptable lengths.

However, this seems to be a clear case of the talented Bazmee made to face severe constraints from the moneybags in their dictates on what is needed (preferably repetitious and optimistically mass-friendly) and what is not (class, taste, sense, genuine humor in sync with 2019 is shunned).

Bazmee’s talent has always been solid, never in doubt, but here he seems to be bogged down from all angles. Why else would we get a hotchpotch of a horror comedy and patriotic elements coming in just when we are resigned to the film being a mess as it is?

What’s more, Arshad Warsi also stated to India-West that characters that are loved and connect with the audience are needed for sequels. This is another crucial area of failure as no one comes across who fulfills those basic requirements.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Rajkishore (John Abraham), who is phenomenally unlucky. Bad luck follows him like night follows day. When he joins a bank in India, Niraj Modi (Inaamulhaq) runs away with Rs. 32,000 crore. When he befriends two goofy brothers Junky (Arshad Warsi) and Chandu (Pulkit Samrat), their fireworks shop in London goes up in flames on inauguration day.

They finally con a man (Brijendra Kala) and his niece Sanjana (Ileana D’Cruz) and start a delivery business, and their first casualty is a huge car they deliver to eccentric Janvi (Kriti Kharbanda) for her birthday, which is a wreck because of the chain of events that come before it. The car has cost Rs. 7 crore (everything talks rupees in UK!) and that money belongs to her don father (Saurabh Shukla) and maternal uncle Wi-Fi (Anil Kapoor).

The dreaded twosome, who is in the bad books of rival gangsters Tulli Seth (Zakir Hussain) and Bulli Seth (Ashok Samarth), shrewdly place the three in their employment for a salary of Rs. 10 lakh (Indiasn currency again!) to be adjusted against their debt and not paid! Rajkishore will be the front when the dons travel in their limousines, as he will be the one killed if attckes are planned on either Raja Saheb or Wi-Fi, who safely travel in mundane vehicles! The other two are made to be food tasters, as Tulli and Bulli had tried to poison the two dons and safety is needed! No one talks of recovering Rs. 7 crore if one or all three die, though!

But Niraj, now also in London, is a master crook who wants the gangster rivals to be friends for his own ends. And after this, confusion, madness and mayhem reign.

The plot is wafer-thin, but the execution is like an overcooked packet of chips that has also been crushed to fragments with careless handling. The late introduction of Kavya (Urvashi Rautela) seems just a ploy to add an item song and some oomph, and the lion sequence sucks.

In other words, an original comic genius like Bazmee (saddled with dated co-writers Rajiv Kaul and Praful Parekh who shone in 1990’s “Dil” and 1992’s “Beta”!) is made to — at different junctures — be a pale copy of the crass avatar of David Dhawan, the nonsensically comic Priyadarshan, the juvenile version of Sajid Khan (the lions), Rohit Shetty (the action around cars), Indra Kumar in his early days (tasteless jokes on anatomy) and even the inferior versions of Bazmee himself!

Technically on par but for some tacky VFX, the film’s writing is so shoddy that not a single actor can shine. Arshad Warsi makes the best of a bad bargain, so does Saurabh Shukla. Anil Kapoor fails to do so, and the rest do not even get the chance. The worst, in descending order, are Ileana D’Cruz, Urvashi Rautela and the flat Pulkit Samrat.

The music, as in all of T-Series films nowadays, sucks with its mélange of callous treatment of old hit songs and uninspiring new ones. The female singers of the new “Tum Par Hum Hai Atke” and “Tera Beemar Mera Dil” are horrifying indeed.

The film is a behemoth that totters big time. For the Pathaks, it is their second and far bigger calamity after this month’s “Ujda Chaman.”

Rating: *1/2

Produced by: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Kumar Mangat Pathak & Abhishek Pathak

Directed by: Anees Bazmee

Written by: Anees Bazmee, Rajiv Kaul & Praful Parekh

Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Himesh Reshammiya, Sajid-Wajid, Yo Yo Honey Singh, Tanishk Bagchi & Nayeem-Shabir

Starring: Anil Kapoor, John Abraham, Ileana D’Cruz, Pulkit Samrat, Kriti Kharbanda, Urvashi Rautela, Saurabh Shukla, Zakir Hussain, Ashok Samarth, Mukesh Tiwari, Inaamulhaq, Brijendra Kala & others

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