Happy Bhag Jayegi – just a nice enjoyable comedy movie

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When I saw the trailer for Happy Bhag Jayegi [Happy Will Run], I was so excited.  It looked funny, and most importantly had Jimmy Shergill as the heavy, and Abhay Deol looking bemused.  The reviews have not been stellar, but I’m here to tell you it’s a fun little over two hour romantic farce.  And who doesn’t want to spend two hours with Abhay and Jimmy?

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I really admire what Jimmy Shergill is doing with his career.  He’s taking the supporting villainish (but not too villainish) character roles now in this and in movies like Tanu Weds Manu 2, as well as supporting roles in action films.  Because he’s Jimmy Shergill, he’s the bad guy here, but he’s still so charming you almost feel sorry for him that his bride ran away.

Happy (Diana Penty) is a spitfire.  Her father has arranged her marriage to politician Jimmy Shergill, also the head of the local goon gang.  While Jimmy dances (badly!) at their engagement, Happy jumps out the bathroom window into a waiting truck.  Trouble is, it wasn’t the truck her boyfriend had arranged.

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She pops out of a box in the home of Abhay — son of the ex-Governor in Lahore, Pakistan.  Abhay’s father is played by the always great Pakistani actor Javed Sheikh.  Bollywood audiences know him  as SRK’s father in Om Shanti Om, but I loved him as Fawad Khan’s father in the Pakistani soap Zindagi Gulzar Hai.

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Abhay just wants to play cricket, but his father has great political aspirations for him.  They’d been in Amritsar on a diplomatic mission, and the truck is full of diplomatic gifts!

Happy is stuck in Lahore, without the fiance she really wants to marry, and poses a problem because she has no passport or visa?  And Abhay is of course engaged as well, so how to explain a strange girl in his house?

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The whole thing is a lighter than air farce.  Even when Happy gets kidnapped at one point, you know she’s really in no danger, as the goons are scared of our feisty heroine.  Happy’s intended Guddu (Ali Fazal) is a rather feckless musician.  It’s no wonder her father had doubts about him!  Abhay has to figure out a way to get Guddu into Lahore, get them married and then deport them!  All while keeping Jimmy Shergill at bay.

What I liked about this movie is that the Pakistanis are all nice people.  They are not the bad guys at all!  I can’t for the life of me understand how this movie could be banned in Pakistan, because it’s so positive about Pakistan!  The misunderstandings between the two countries are presented in a humorous way, and barriers between people broken down.  The director wrote an open letter to Pakistan, and the official who banned it, because he doesn’t get it either!

The women in the movie are strong, both Happy and Abhay’s fiance Zoya (Momal Sheikh).  They make the men in their lives rise to the occasion.

It was a very pleasant way to spend a little over two hours, and I laughed out loud at quite a few points.  Abhay, it’s great to have you back.  I’ve missed you.

Looking up Ali Fazal, I don’t remember him at all from 3 Idiots, but he’s set to play Abdul in Stephen Frears’ Victoria and Adbul opposite Judi Dench!  I wasn’t super impressed with you in this trifle, but go you!

Three and a half out of five stars.

Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I saw it together.  Read her spoiler free review here.

Traffic (2011) Film Review – the start of Malayalam New Wave Cinema

Rajesh Pillai‘s Malayam film Traffic (2011) is a hyperlink movie.  We get small glimpses into the lives of several characters, and learn over the course of the film how they are all connected to each other.  DontCallitBollywood has a great discussion of what hyperlink movies are, and analysis of this film.  Because of her writeup, I decided to check out this movie, that was also recommended many times on the Quora post.

Traffic was also evidently a seminal movie in the New Wave Cinema or Next Generation movement in Malayalam cinema because of its urban setting, vs. the traditional rural village, and young fresh faces outside of the star system.

Traffic most reminds me of the hyperlink Hollywood film Crash, which also touched on serious urban themes and issues.

 

Traffic, as you can imagine, starts with a traffic accident, and then backs up the narrative a bit to fill us in on the characters involved.  We have a young man who is starting his first day on the job as a journalist off to interview a big movie star.  A young woman being followed by some rowdies on motorbikes.  The victim of the crash goes into a coma, and the doctors bring up a young thirteen year old girl, who desperately needs a heart transplant.  And that’s the hook of the film.  Getting that heart on a two hour drive through various towns and urban populated areas.

We flashback and learn about a police officer who has been disgraced by a bribe.  He volunteers to drive the heart to try to redeem himself in the eyes of his family and neighbors.  There’s the police commander who thinks it just can’t be done, and then coordinates all the road closures necessary from a command center.  And most importantly we learn about a movie star on the day of his premiere — it turns out to be his daughter who is very ill.  The young journalist  is set to interview this star, and he has a romance with a young divorced woman.

It’s quite unusual to see a young divorcee in Indian films, and that is one of the key plot points that signifies this film as New Wave.  The filmmakers set out to make a quite different film.

I loved the glimpses into the life of the Malayalam movie star.  We see flashbacks of him being too busy for his family, and my favorite scene of the whole movie is when he is being interviewed on the radio while his daughter and wife roll their eyes at his answers.  The daughter hands the interviewer a paper with some questions — “What is the name of my daughter’s favorite teacher?  Who is her best friend?”  And so on because she knows that will trip him up.

The second half of the movie is mostly taken up with the action of  driving that police car at 100 kph or whatever it was to get the heart to the girl on time.  And the action scenes were great.  There’s a big twist right at the interval that had me gasp out loud.  It really shocked me what one character did when he heard some awful news.  And what he’s going to do next sets up much of the tension and conflict.

As Margaret points out in her take on Traffic, this is a movie about detours and second chances for many of the characters.  It has a very interesting script, unlike most Indian films, and the action towards the end is very well done.

But my problem with the film is that since there are so many characters, I couldn’t really connect emotionally with any of them.  And I really thought afterwards about why this film seemed to have such a strong reaction in Kerala, but I didn’t feel the same way about it.  And part of it may be that just about every actor in the film I have never seen before.  Only the young journalist, I had seen in Ohm Shanti Oshana.

Hyperlink movies in Hollywood like the silly He’s Just Not That Into You or Valentine’s Day have a bevy of stars and some new actors thrown in.

 

When you have Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck and Bradley Cooper in a movie, you know these actors.  There’s a shorthand to their characters, and an instant rapport with the audience.

And I didn’t have that with the actors in the Malayalam Traffic that maybe the Mayali audience did.  So, I give it three and a half stars out of five.  I admire the film, but I didn’t love it.  Rajesh Pillai also directed the Malayalam film Mili, which I also admired for being so female centric, but didn’t love.  Bangalore Days and the Malayalam films that came after Traffic owe a debt to Traffic, but Bangalore Days is the superior film.  Fewer characters, and you get emotionally drawn in to their stories much more.

Interestingly, when I was looking up links for this version of Traffic, I discovered that the same director made a Hindi version of Traffic that is going to be released May 6th!  And here, we have Jimmy Shergill as the police commander and Manoj Bajpayee as the police officer who volunteers to make the drive to redeem himself.  See, I’m instantly in!  Because these actors I already have a relationship with from many, many movies.  The film has the exact same plot, but with action “enhancements” which I’m very curious about.  Same director, Rajesh Pillai, who tragically died earlier this year, so this is his last film.  Instead of driving to Chennai, as in the real life case the movie is based on, the drive is from Pune to Mumbai.