Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi Review: Jimmy Shergill, Piyush Mishra's Comic Timing is the Only Highlight
Director: Mudassar Aziz
Cast: SonakshiSinha, Jimmy Shergill, Piyush Mishra, Jassie Gill, Diana Penty, Ali Fazal, AparshaktiKhurrana, Denzil Smith, Jason Tham
The simple premise of a runaway Punjabi bride who accidentally lands up in Pakistan, with a string of men in hot pursuit, yielded hilarious results in 2016’s Happy Bhag Jayegi. That film’s sequel – Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi – has a bigger cast, a longer runtime, and a new playground for its humour to unfold. But there’s so much going on this time around that you’ll frequently need to pause, gather your wits, and try to keep up with its manic pace and ‘anything goes’ spirit.
Relocating the action from Pakistan to China, the plot is kicked into motion when a different Happy, a horticulture professor (Sonakshi Sinha), is mistaken for the earlier Happy (Diana Penty) and kidnapped moments after she arrives in Shanghai by a bunch of Chinese goons led by the Hindi-speaking Chang (Jason Tham). When she manages to run away, as anyone named Happy in these films is prone to do, she encounters a Sardar named Khushwant (Jassie Gill), who works at the Indian embassy and who promises to help her sort out the mess.
A handful of characters from the earlier film return for this second outing, including boorish Punjabi corporator Daman Singh Bagga (Jimmy Shergill), whose marriage is again thwarted at the eleventh hour, this time after climbing the ceremonial horse; a point he repeats with great frustration over and over again. Joining him is bumbling Pakistani police officer UsmanAfridi (Piyush Mishra), who is also drawn into the plot presumably because he was such a hoot in the previous film.
Bagga and Afridi are the secret sauce of this sequel, both played by skilled actors with sharp comic timing. The back and forth between Jimmy Shergill and Piyush Mishra is the source of plenty laughs, even if many of the film’s best jokes are simply rehashed from the previous film.
As it turns out, the bulk of humour in Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi is decidedly juvenile. Chinese characters have names like Makaju and Fa-Q, and the film trades in every cliché you can think of from noodles and cheap duplicate goods to naughty massages and Jackie Chan references. Taking a leaf out of Sajid Khan’s book, the film is also guilty of a kind of ‘casual’ racism in suggesting that all Chinese people look the same, or in bunching all Asian people – irrespective of their nationalities – as Chinese. But the puerile humour isn’t limited to them exclusively. Multiple potshots are aimed at Pakistan and Pakistanis, evidently to mine cheap laughs. Even the references to the politics between Pakistan, China, and India are so facile, they seldom hit their mark.
Crucially, the new film is missing the freshness of the earlier one, and fails to give us characters that are especially interesting in any way. Writer-director Mudassar Aziz can’t seem to ground the film emotionally, or raise the stakes in a way that makes us care for any of these folks. Instead of coherent plotting we get a sense the filmmakers decided to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. How else do you explain a ridiculous gay subplot that feels like it belongs in a different film? They even bring back Diana Penty, the first Happy, and Guddu (Ali Fazal) from the previous film, but they have precious little to do.
The only character that genuinely flies in this overlong, overstuffed sequel is Jimmy Shergill’s Bagga, who comes out on top as the toughie who never gets the girl – he’s fast cornering the market on that role. Sonakshi Sinha plays Happy as a loud, irritable, one-note protagonist whose eyes seem to light up only when she has to say: “Chup kar varna ek chappet doongi”, which she says about a dozen times in this film. It’s such a dull, uninvolving performance that in response to the film’s title, Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi, you can only say – Toh bhaagne de yaar! ((pause)) I’m going with two out of five.
Rating: 2 / 5
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