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Pagalpanti movie review: The joke is on John Abraham’s film

Pagalpanti movie review: John Abraham, Anil Kapoor, Ileana D’cruz, Pulkit Samrat, Arshad Warsi, Kriti Kharbanda and Urvashi Rautela come together for a masterclass on how not to make a slapstick film.

Updated: Nov 22, 2019 14:46 IST

By Jyoti Sharma Bawa, Hindustan Times

Arshad Warsi, Anil Kapoor, John Abraham, Saurabh Shukla and Pulkit Samrat in a still from Pagalpanti.

Cast: John Abraham, Ileana D’Cruz, Pulkit Samrat, Kriti Kharbanda, Arshad Warsi, Anil Kapoor, Urvashi Rautela, Saurabh Shukla
Director: Anees Bazmee

Pagalpanti, as the self-aware title says, was never supposed to be taken seriously. It belonged, and proudly so, to that Bollywood coinage -- mindless comedy. A genre in itself, it is colloquially described as ‘leave your brains at home’ movies. Now these films, peddling slapstick, can be fun too. Director Anees Bazmee’s Welcome and Singh is Kinng being two such examples. They treaded lightly as they piled on silliness in droves. Big and loud, both the movies made broad comedy work once they found their rhythm.

 Watch Pagalpanti trailer

Alas, where Bazmee’s Welcome danced, his Pagalpanti stomps. It shows you early on that it has two left feet, and this is how it is going to be. With its obligatory big cast, bigger sets and a lavish budget – those stately homes in the UK don’t come cheap and Pagalpanti seems to be set exclusively in them – it ticks off some of the boxes too.

Where Pagalpati falters– oh, where do I start – is everything else. The jokes are scarcer than politically correct humour on The Kapil Sharma Show. In the names of runaway lines and silly gags, we are offered dialogues so lame that John Abraham’s character has to spell it out: “Ye zaroori nahi ki har cheez ka koi matlab ho (It is not important that everything should mean something).”

What Pagalpanti lacks in quality, it attempts to fill in with sheer quantity. It throws everything it has at you. There are songs so unnecessary that they need exposition; three lions run amok in a scene and are so bored with what is happening that they seem to be pining for their cages; there is a ghost who likes to dance to recycled 90s songs in colourful negligees, and not one good joke in all of it put together!

Pulkit Samrat, Kriti Kharbanda, John Abraham, Ileana D’Cruz, Arshad Warsi and Urvashi Rautela in a still from Pagalpanti.

Here’s the plot of Pagalpanti, wafer-thin as it is – Down-on-his-luck Raj Kishore (John Abraham), his friends Chandu (Pulkit Samrat) and Junky (Arshad Warsi) leave disaster in their wake. Till their neck in debt, the trio is employed by bumbling dons Raja (Saurabh Shukla) and his brother-in-law WiFi (Anil Kapoor). The dons are being pursued by rival dons and after blowing up an appropriate number of CGI cars, they all meet a stand-in for diamantaire Niraj Modi (Inaamulhaq). This man has fled India for the UK with thousands of crores and wants Raja and WiFi to double the money.

Somewhere on the fringes are the three lead actresses too – Ileana D’Cruz as John’s girlfriend who has been defrauded by him, Kriti Kharbanda as Raja’s airheaded daughter who falls for Pulkit and Urvashi as the ghost who isn’t and Arshad’s love interest. They have little to do beyond screeching and dancing with the three male leads.

Arshad Warsi, John Abraham and Pulkit Samrat in a still from Pagalpanti.

To be fair, they are not only ones saddled with the screechy parts. We are force-fed patriotism too as John’s avenging hero acts against Modi and his fugitive uncle (Mehul Choksi, anyone?). In a heavy-handed scene in a film that is full of those, John explains to Anil’s WiFi that he is indeed a patriot because he hates when India loses at cricket as Karma’s Aye Watan Tere Liye plays in the background.

Also read: Taapsee Pannu on Anil Kapoor’s son Harsh Varrdhan: ‘If I was in his position, I wouldn’t have got a second film’

Pagalpanti appears to be a collection of improvised scenes rather than a film made from a real script. The performances are wooden, dialogues stilted and regressive, and the story – well, there isn’t one. This one is best avoided.

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