A couple of years ago, Bollywood legend Dharmendra (Sholay
) put together a wacky comedy starring himself and his two movie star sons, Bobby Deol and Sunny Deol. That film was called Yamla Pagla Deewana
(Nutty, Looney, Crazy
) and was a big hit.
The family played a family, the Singhs, with Dharmendra and Bobby essaying the roles of con men on the prowl for a quick buck, and Sunny playing a devout Sikh to whom such shenanigans were anathema. The trio come together, find a girl, fall in love, and attempt to con a different Sikh family, headed by Anupam Kher (Silver Linings Playbook), into marrying their daughter off to Gajodhar (Bobby), in spite of his not being an NRI like the family insists. That film was a light-hearted comedy, full of crazy, but not unbelievable, turns of fate and plenty of goofy comedic moments contrasting the deviousness of the con men against the piety of Paramveer (Sunny). This sequel is an altogether different beast.
Yamla Pagla Deewana 2, rather than being the story of a family attempting to overcome prejudice on the path to true love, is the story of a family trying to overcome true love on the path to riches, which makes all the players significantly less sympathetic than they once were. First of all, apparently all the relationships from the first film have dissolved, as neither Gajodhar nor Paramveer are married, and second of all, Dharam (Dharmendra) and Gajodhar are pure con men, even going so far as to form a cult of Yamla Pagla Deewana, designed to get devotees and silly white people to shed their material belongings right into their own coffers. Meanwhile, Paramveer is now a successful bank agent of some kind in the UK who believes that his formerly crooked family has gone straight, but not for long...
This is not a film for Bollywood neophytes, hell, I'm not even sure that it's a film for the die-hards. There are a lot of in-jokes that will undoubtedly fly right over the heads of people unfamiliar with either Bollywood or Indian culture and stereotypes. For example, the main love story (false this time around) is ignited over a scuffle regarding ownership of a life-sized photo of Salman Khan in Dabangg. The ensuing back-and-forth between Gajodhar and what's-her-face -- she really could be anyone, it's such a vapid role -- relies heavily on the audience to know Salman Khan's filmography and character names. It's not a challenge for most Bollywood fans, but others will be baffled. That's only the beginning, though, as the film throws one challenge to the audience's sanity and endurance after another.
In the first film, character actor Anupam Kher (who has been in hundreds of films) played the patriarch of a Sikh family who only wanted the best for his little sister when it came to marriage. His methods were questionable, but his motives were pure. In this film Kher returns as some kind of Dr. Evil-esque villain by the name of Dude (referred to with respect as Dude-ji, or Dude-G as the subtitles mangled it). Dude's main goal, as the sporadically relevant super-villain, is to build the world's first floating mega-mall in the sky. What? That's your master plan? This bizarre subplot serves virtually no purpose, but manages to give Paramveer opportunities to show off some classic Bollywood physics-defying fighting skills, though even those aren't very impressive this time around.
At Dude-ji's service are a pair of henchmen named Bunty and Babli (another reference which will fly over the heads of newbs) who first appear disguised as characters from Shah Rukh Khan's remake of Don (another reference). Bunty is played by 90s stand-by comic relief Jonny Lever, who is actually pretty funny in his role, and Sucheta Khanna as Babli, who is less important and ten times more grating. Their running gag is that they always appear as different characters, managing to offend half of the globe with their portrayals of all manner of non-Indian characters. It works in spots, but becomes tiring rather quickly. Jonny Lever works best in small doses, but I like him in spite of myself.
The real coup de grace for the film is Einstein, aka Happy Singh. Einstein is the name of the orangutan of genius-level intelligence in the poster. I would say that the film really dies early on when Dharmendra's Dharam has a brief daydream sequence in which he relives a famous song, "Yeh Dosti," from the classic Sholay (which starred Dharmendra) with the orangutan replacing Amitabh Bachchan, but it somehow manages to get worse. The entire plot turns on one major item, a painting so beautiful that it makes anyone who sees it well up with emotion and cry. Well, it turns out that one night while they were getting hammered, Dharam and Gajodhar get Einstein absolutely wasted, at which point he takes to the canvas and creates this modern masterpiece that gets him (by way of con-man Gajodhar), called "the next Picasso." The film wisely never shows us the actual painting, but the very thought is ludicrous and it drains me of energy to even think about it. Einstein is a constant presence in the film; he is always either getting drunk or reading a book amusingly titled "Understanding Humans." I don't understand his presence, but I guess it makes more sense than the sumo wrestlers.
A couple of months ago I intended to review the Sajid Khan/Ajay Devgan remake of Himmatwala and was mercifully forced from the theater by a heaven-sent case of food poisoning. That was easily the worst film I'd seen in years, but this makes a valid case for itself. Without the presence of explosive diarrhea to push me out the door, I did stay through the end of Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 and survive, but only just. This film is not good, which is a shame, because the first film was genuinely funny and had an emotional core that reached out to the audience in a conscious effort to make them care. I guess they decided that anything is funnier with an orangutan and sumo wrestlers wearing what look like Mongolian lederhosen. Bad choice, guys. Avoid.
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