Happy New Year

Movie review:

In Happy New Year, subtlety is not the hallmark. Be prepared for Happy New Year (HNY) to show you things you were beginning to forget. Farah Khan’s films pay homage to the Indian cinema in one way or another. From the small sound bites in Main Hoon Na to the entire setup of Bollywood in Om Shanti Om, she has shown the audience glimpses of films they have loved while growing up. HNY makes us feel nostalgic, and nostalgia is good.

Alt Text: Happy New Year - Wishing you a joyous and prosperous year ahead.
Image by annca from Pixabay

She names her heroine, Mohini (Tezaab’s Madhuri) and the much sought-after safe that is the prime target of the cast, Shalimar (taken from the 1978 heist film Shalimar and Asha Bhosle’s ‘Mera Pyar Shalimar’ can be heard in the background).

References to the clothing in ‘Dard-i-Disco’ can be spotted in the film and even Shahrukh Khan’s Chak De India speech is re-done in a comical way. It’s all very entertaining except an ill-timed tart-tasting spoof of Saroj Khan’s choreography and physical appearance.

So what’s the problem? The problem begins with the fact that Farah wants to tell a story. She wants to make an intelligent film. She wants to sound tech savvy, physics reliant and logically convincing. If a group of hackers and a physicist watch HNY, there will be at least one traumatic casualty in the theatre. If HNY was a collection of skits based on Bollywood and the clichés around it, it would have been a very entertaining one hour watch.

On the contrary, it is a film spanning over three hours and based around the “world’s biggest heist”

and a “World Dance Championship” combined. Its Ocean’s Eleven plus Italian Job plus Step Up all in one…on cheap shape-deteriorating steroids. The World Dance Championship for some reason is being hosted by Dino Morea as himself, who may probably not even get to host a Maharashtra dance championship.

In Farah’s world, for her movies to be entertainers, they should have some amount of over-acting and that responsibility is shared by Abhishek and SRK in HNY. They should have action so Sonu Sood and SRK have handled that front. There must be fabulous choreography and that becomes Deepika’s domain. They should have comic sequences and Boman Irani and SRK are jointly responsible for that. Emotions and drama is obviously needed so everyone has tried to feed the kitty.

In this process, the actors have stood true to their responsibilities and have not tried to enter other actors’ areas.

In essence, HNY has its own entertainment value.

It will surely appeal to a large number in the audience and will create giggles in theatres. Be it in the form of a whole pineapple cake Boman carries in his bag or in the form of a gang learning to dance from scratch. However, instead of focusing on this intra-cast chemistry, Farah has overshadowed it with abs and biceps and unbuttoned shirts. For the first time, a mainstream Indian film has more male skin on display than female.

And then there are the brands. All of India seems to be using the Nokia smartphones irrespective of social class. Lenovo is the laptop and tablet that can hack anything in the world. Everyone wears Puma shoes, trousers, socks, tank tops and jackets. Renault Duster is the car to drive in India and Atlantis Dubai has 1,539 rooms and dolphin shows and cult Ray-Bans have been replaced by Oakley.

The movie does not believe in subtlety. To the extent that actual fire is shown in scenes when Deepika is supposed to look hot.
Abhishek’s is an over the top performance. Sonu Sood’s presence is wasted. Boman Irani has supported SRK well and Vivan Shah is decent as a hacker. Deepika is underwhelming and caught ‘acting’ many times, even though her role does not have a lot of margin in it.

SRK is the fortress.

He pulls the film together, despite few tasteless running gags where his character keeps demeaning the woman he loves and she conveniently keeps forgetting that because he is, apparently, a nice guy. He has played this character for his fan base who will love it. In HNY, he is a Salman Khan who can act. And much like Salman, he has taken his shirt off more than he has worn it.

His bearded avatar is reminiscent of his Chak De India days but is not as classy. From dancing dressed like a ballerina to the signature SRK romancing, he’s done his part well.
The sensitive sections of the film are the weak link of HNY and so is the heist in a heist-based movie or dance in a dance-based movie. Will the film work with the audience? Yes, it will. Solely on SRK’s six packs or eight packs, I am not sure. And its comic value, even though this time the music is weaker than in Farah’s previous films as there is no ‘Sheela ki jawani’ or ‘Dard-i-Disco’.

What there is though is patriotism.

Multi-ethnic crowds are shown waving the Indian flag proudly chanting for team India. There is a visual of Taj Mahal in stage backdrop and a cameo by the man himself, Narendra Modi. While Pakistan banned Haider for release, HNY is possibly the most lavishly mounted propaganda movie about India’s softer image in the world. Perhaps Farah does know some subtlety after all.

Rating: 2.5/5 (where 0.5 is only for ending credits. As always, Farah has done a great job there, also featuring her own children and SRK’s youngest child Abram.)

Directed by Farah Khan, produced by Gauri Khan and starring Shahrukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Sonu Sood, Boman Irani and Vivaan Shah.

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