Mumbai, 24 Aug 2018 4:00 IST
Director Mudassar Aziz’s engrossing, entertaining screenplay and hilarious dialogues and the performances of the cast make Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi the ideal entertainer.
Sequels ought to grow organically. A filmmaker ought not to be compelled by the success of a film and demands of the media and/or audiences to bring out a sequel.
A casual narration by Mudassar Aziz one evening, probably after a few pegs, led to producer-director Aanand L Rai asking him to chuck the script he was working on and turn his energies to helming Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi, the sequel to their 2016 crossborder comedy, Happy Bhag Jayegi.
Director Aziz has now sent out an open invitation to all to come and enjoy ‘Happy’ hours. Not hour, mind you. If one Happy (Diana Penty) was not enough, he brings you two. The second film revolves around the chaos that the other Happy (Sonakshi Sinha) finds herself in the moment she sets foot in China.
Happy (Sinha) gets a job in a Shanghai college, but the horticulture professor is more keen to tackle a personal issue. Coincidentally, both Happys arrive in China at the same time. A case of mistaken identity sees Happy (Penty) and Guddu (Ali Fazal) land up at the college while poor Sinha lands up in a jam, abducted by Chang (Jason Tham).
What transpires next is a comedy of errors that will have you rolling in the aisles. Aziz gives you a double dose of Happy, double the entertainment and a truckload of humour.
Be it the story, the screenplay, the dialogues or the lyrics, he succeeds on all counts as the creator. Thus, we have a film in which India, Pakistan and China come under one umbrella, but none of them is the villain as such. The crossover comedy teaches you how to laugh at your neighbour while taking a few jokes in return sportingly. That is the essence of this franchise.
While the runaway bride/groom trope is not new to Indian cinema, the novelty of the first film lay in the endearing characters Aziz created. Yes, we had the protagonists in Happy (Penty), Bilal (Abhay Deol) and Guddu (Ali Fazal), but it was really the eternal bachelor Daman Singh Bagga (Jimmy Sheirgill), the cultured Pakistani cop Usman Afridi (Piyush Mishra), and the two fathers, Kanwaljit Singh, who played Happy’s (Penty) dad, and Pakistani politician Javed Ahmed (Javed Sheikh), who played Bilal's, who provided the entertainment quotient.
With no Javed Sheikh or Kanwaljit Singh in Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi, this reviewer did wonder what would compensate for their absence in China, particularly with the language barrier. We need not have worried. Aziz proves us ‘happily’ wrong.
Kanwaljit Singh and Javed Sheikh are hardly missed, for Aziz has created the Urdu-speaking Adnan Chow (Denzil Smith), a Sino-Pakistani, and Chang (Jason Tham) who speaks such fluent Hindi that you are really curious to know his origins. Tham is a talent that producers and directors need to look out for. There is also one desi-looking character who goes by the name of Fa Q. Get the pun?
The beauty of crossover comedy is that it allows a director to take creative liberties and add shades to a character when you least expect it. For far too long has Indian cinema taken the easy, stereotypical route. Aziz gives us an Adnan Chow who conducts a mushaira (Urdu poetry recital) in front of a Chinese audience, who perhaps are paid to shower the ‘wah-wahs’ of praise. He teaches the locals how to make biryani and also indulges in a bit of funny dancing.
However, there is more to Chow than meets the eye. We will leave you to work this out yourself. Denzil Smith has the gift of the gab, but it’s just the idiosyncrasy of Chow that makes him such an appealing character.
Sonakshi Sinha ends her tough phase with Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi. She has been cast as a Sikh woman before, in Son Of Sardaar (2012), but those characters were clichéd. Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi is a happy return to form for the actress, who finally finds a powerful role. There is no unnecessary melodrama. Sinha just simmers into her character naturally. This could be a career-changing moment for her.
Happy finds help in the form of Khushwant Singh Gill (Jassie Gill). The Punjabi singer and actor makes his debut in Hindi cinema playing a Sikh man but not a loud one.
In fact, Khushwant is the antithesis of the archetypal 'Bollywood' Sikh. He mostly communicates in a meek tone. He even retains the clothes of ex-girlfriend Ellee, a Chinese woman, in the hope that she will one day return to him.
Gill is particularly impressive in moments when he mumbles to himself fearing the worst. The newcomer has put in a measured performance.
Diana Penty is credited for a ‘special' appearance. The actress played the lead in the first film, but it is commendable that she agreed to take the back seat and let her namesake run the show here. With all due respect to Penty, it is Sinha who is more convincing as Happy.
The pair of Bagga and Afridi again bring the house down with their crossborder humour. There is a marked change in Bagga though. He is not the scheming corporator we saw in Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016). Though he lands up in China — not of his own will, we might add — Bagga finds redemption in the land of the Red Dragon. The eternal bachelor, abducted on the eve of his wedding — no Happy this time — develops an affinity towards Happy (Sinha). Chivalry, though, is not his cup of tea, and the feeble attempts only boomerang on him.
You are amused by Bagga's Punjabi English, his squabbles with Afridi, especially their 'tu tu mai mai’ when drunk. "Toh ab tu mere zakhmon pe Urdu chidak raha hai!" Sweet though Urdu be, that line will add more injury to all eternal bachelors than salt.
Sheirgill is the heart and soul of the franchise. Bagga also pays fitting tribute to his idol, Sunny Deol. We won't tell you how. Watch the film to find out.
Piyush Mishra is so good at Urdu that Pakistan might consider granting him honorary citizenship. Bagga and Afridi are like Tom and Jerry in Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi. They squabble lifelong, but they just can’t do without each other. Much of their banter is on the lines of India versus Pakistan, but the humour is so Punjabi.
The cheeky digs at the Chinese are a bit clichéd for sure, but Aziz does not let his characters strip any nation of its dignity. Much of the cheeky humour stems from the innocence of the characters. While such humour runs the risk of developing racist undertones, Aziz deserves credit for keeping his characters on the right side.
Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi rides on a believable story, taut screenplay, and impeccable writing, especially the hilarious dialogues. Aziz is a man who clearly knows his Urdu and his Punjabi and the respective linguistic humour.
The Punjabi innocence is best reflected by Sinha's Happy's father, played by Raja Bundela. Unable to trace Happy, her younger sister tells their father the truth, that Happy is not in Mumbai but in Shanghai. Sodhi (Bundela) responds, “No worries, Shanghai shouldn’t be far from Sion.” (Sion is an area in central Mumbai with a large Punjabi community.) Then we have Bagga berating the Chinese for their duplicate products. The film is laced with many such humorous dialogues.
The only drawback is a sequence when Happy (Sinha) reveals her back story. (Aparshakti Khurrana is a key part of that subplot.) Also, the film could have been trimmed a bit.
However, this does not take much away from Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi. In an interviewr, Aziz had called classic comedies like Chupke Chupke (1975), Angoor (1982) and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983) the three stambh, or pillars, of Hindi cinema comedy in India. Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi makes a strong case to be the fourth.
This story began with a casual conversation. There is a Happy in every second or third household in Amritsar, says Sonakshi ‘Happy’ Sinha. And given the propensity of Aziz’s Happys to run away, one mustn't rule out another glorious chapter in this franchise.
For now, though, you run to the theatres to enjoy these ‘Happy Hours’.
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