Welcome Back, directed by Anees Bazmee, is overlong, over-plotted, and unmistakably silly. But it's also incredibly funny in portions.
Like 2007's Welcome, the plot is centered on Uday Shetty (Nana Patekar) and Majnu Bhai (Anil Kapoor), a pair of best friends and underworld dons who've been tasked with the responsibility of finding a suitable husband for another one of Uday's half-sisters (Shruti Haasan). The difference, this time, is that Uday and Majnu are reformed mobsters, and the prospective groom, Ajju Bhai (John Abraham), a feared goonda who just happens to be the son of good ol’ Dr Ghungroo (Paresh Rawal) from the earlier film.
That scenario is further complicated by the fact that Uday and Majnu have fallen for the same girl (newcomer Ankita Srivastava), a petty con artist posing as a princess, whose conniving mother (Dimple Kapadia) insists that the men must get their sister married before thinking of settling down themselves.
Most of it filmed in Dubai, no doubt taking advantage of generous subsidies, there's a lot going on in Welcome Back, and none of it is particularly smart. But Bazmee and his writers keep the gags coming at a fast and furious pace, mixing up the corny with the truly inspired. So the set-up to the romance between Shruti and John – wherein both mistake each other for being deaf-mute – is lazy and predictable. But a scene in which Nana and Anil’s characters find themselves playing antaakshri in a cemetery is rib-tickling, laugh-out-loud good.
It's Nana and Anil, in fact – along with the impossibly gifted Paresh Rawal – who're the real stars of this film, bringing so much manic energy and good-natured stupidity to a familiar, shopworn premise. The other big strength is the consistently terrific dialogue that gives even bit players their moment to shine. Witty one-liners, occasionally laced with double-meaning jokes, are delivered at lightning speed. Presuming Dr Ghungroo's son will be a chip off the old block, one of Majnu’s henchmen says: "Baap ganna hai toh beta gud hoga hi naa." ("If the father's as sweet as sugarcane, the son will be like jaggery after all.") Got the pun? In another instance, when his sister’s wedding is being called off, Nana says: "Humne mehendi se lekar Daler Mehendi tak sab intezaam kar diya tha." ("From the mehendi ceremony to hiring Daler Mehendi to sing at the wedding, all arrangements had been made.") One of my favorite lines though is delivered by a droll Dimple Kapadia as she embarks on another con-job: "Dye karne ke umar mein kamai karne nikle hain." (“At an age when one should be dyeing one’s hair, one is trying to earn a living.")
With so much going for it until this point, it's a shame Welcome Back falters in its final act, where much of the focus shifts to a hammy Naseeruddin Shah, playing a blind super-don named Wanted Bhai, whose druggie son (Shiney Ahuja) becomes obsessed with marrying Uday's sister. It’s a shame Naseer – essentially a poor replacement for Feroz Khan from the earlier film – is never as comically menacing as Khan’s legendary RDX.
It also doesn't help that the climax is one big bloated mess of underwhelming set-pieces, including sky-diving henchmen, a camel stampede, an attack by mini-helicopter bombs, and a CGI sandstorm. All of it is infantile and tedious, and as the film limps towards the 150-minute mark, you just want it to be over.
I'm going with two-and-a-half out of five for Welcome Back. It's pedestrian but unpretentious; I was surprised by how much I laughed.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
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