Bollywood has produced some iconic comedy movies such as Gol Maal, Chupke Chupke, Andaaz Apna Apna, Hera Pheri, which let you have a great laugh even if you are watching it for the hundredth time. But some filmmakers have hit upon a template for comedy movies, which, although initially successful, tend to seem repetitive now. The case in point here is Anees Bazmee's filmography as a director, which had a smooth take-off, but is slowly turning into a formula-driven exercise.
Bazmee's latest offering Pagalpanti, is all set to release on November 22. Although it boasts of an ensemble cast, much like his other movies, it is yet to be seen if the concept is well thought out. The trailer itself asks people to not use their brains, probably because they are aware that none would be required. But the larger picture is that of a deteriorating movie plot in the comedy genre, which, combined with an ever looser execution, can give the impression that this is the standard Bollywood can offer.
In the initial phase of Bazmee's career as a director, it was a refreshing time for the audience as well. The box office numbers were proof. His first comedy movie No Entry, was loved by the audience, also making it a box office success (the highest Bollywood grosser of 2005).
Post this, the director has made light-hearted movies such as Welcome and Singh is Kinng, which were welcomed and appreciated. Akshay Kumar's comic timing, coupled with his onscreen chemistry with Katrina Kaif, has always been loved by the audience. Box office numbers aside, the concept was well-received and the jokes or banter did not look coerced.
And here's when the downfall starts. Singh Is Kinng was followed by No Problem and Thank You, which were critical failures. Although Thank You managed to emerge as a commercial success, the scripts were in general devoid of jokes and flavor. As movie critic Anupama Chopra rightly points out, "No Problem is so staggeringly brain dead and relentlessly tedious that it makes Anees Bazmee's earlier comedies Singh is Kinng and Welcome Back look like classics."
This was followed by his No Entry actor Salman Khan's Ready. Being a Bhai film, it garnered appreciation, but failed to impress critics. The Salman Khan hip dance move (in the Dhinka Chika song) and famous faces (the movie starred Zareen Khan, Arbaaz Khan, Asin, Paresh Rawal to name a few) created fan frenzy, while letting go of a weak script.
In a turn of events, the slapstick comedy Welcome Back turned out be a savior for the director as somehow, people liked the silliness of the movie and laughed along. The 2017 movie Mubarakan again failed to make an impact. The point here is the missing plot, which makes a comedy movie watchable.
The concern is not uncommon, since Anees Bazmee has been questonedon this. His defense is, "My films have always had a good story and a solid script, which was improved by the actors and their spontaneity. I know that comedies, in our country, are often accused of not having a script and a story, but believe me, writing something that can induce humor in movie theaters across the country is not an easy feat. Criticism is something I have learned to live with because I have always received great appreciation from the audience."
It is true, a good comedy film is hard to write. Making people laugh at is a skill and a people go to theatres with a lot of expectations. And if the film is below par, the audience feels duped. We don't expect another cult movie like Hera Pheri, but giving people what they want, which is basically to making them laugh wholeheartedly, is not too much to ask for.
Bazmee's movies show the potential of turning into a possible franchise (No Entry is coming out with a sequel), or they already have (Welcome and Welcome Back), but is the content satisfactory anymore, or are the movies being run on a template with a standard huge star cast ensemble being (forcefully) interconnected over a trivial cause?
Will Pagalpanti be a laugh riot or too many cooks spoiling the dish? Guess that remains to be seen on November 22.
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