Film Review: 'Happy New Year'
Opened: 24 October 2014
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Abhishek Bachchan, Boman Irani, Sonu Sood, Vivaan Shah, Jackie Shroff
Director: Farah Khan
Producer: Gauri Khan
Isn't it annoying when you're all geared to rip a film to shreds on the basis of the shameless hype bordering on overkill that surrounds it, and then begrudgingly, you scurry away from the cinema with your tail between your legs having enjoyed it, and subsequently, are hacked off that you have to eat humble pie, just because you now have nothing to lay into after sharpening your claws? Yes Happy New Year is one such film.
Everything about the film is grand, indulgent and ridiculously over the top, and in some instances downright offensive to certain sections of the audience too, and yet, kudos to director Farah Khan, who's clearly back in form after the torture that was Tees Maar Khan, for managing to hold our attention for a colossal three hour running time, which is no mean feat. I hate to say it, but there were very few instances in the film where I actually got bored, despite its superficiality and often humdrum character motivation.
Happy New Year's plot is pretty simple and engaging. It tells the story of six oddballs: Charlie, (Shah Rukh Khan) a Boston University smartass, turned streetfighter who feels the need to display his eight pack abs (too much!) at every given opportunity, a bar dancer and Marathi motormouth Mohini (Deepika Padukone), an alcoholic lout Nandu (Abhishek Bachchan), a computer whizz who has zero luck with the ladies (Vivaan Shah), a deaf ex army man (Sonu Sood) and a safe hacker (Boman Irani), who set out to pull off a massive diamond heist in the heart of Dubai while partaking in a huge dance competition, which essentially is just a foil to expose a crooked hotelier (Jackie Shroff) with whom they have a bone to pick with.
Honestly, the scale of this film has to be seen to believed. Evidently, crazy money has been spent on the lavish sets, dazzling costumes, impeccably choreographed dance numbers and top notch special effects.
Yes. I get it. It's not the first film to have done that. But perhaps, where this film scores a little over BS like last month's Bang Bang, is that some kind of effort has been made to put together a plot (however far fetched it may be), and care has been taken to etch out each of the characters, however much some of their quirks and eccentricities are hard to digest. What's more, as an audience you'll inevitably find yourself rooting for the characters, because they aren't so up themselves and that's perhaps where the charm of this film lies.
For all its razmatazz though, after a while I found all the jingoism in this film a little manipulative and irritating, but you quickly forgive that and some of the loud toilet humour, because each of the six players on whom this film is based do their bit in the proceedings to keep you thoroughly entertained.
Shah Rukh Khan does a good job of playing, well, himself again which is a little disappointing, especially when we know as an audience that he's capable of more, so much more. Although that said, what I did like about Happy New Year, was that it could have easily become a vanity project, and unlike a few of the other Khans (not so subtle hint), he sportingly lets the other players have their moment of glory too, and doesn't hog the entire show.
Abhishek Bachchan is laugh out loud funny and self deprecating in equal measures – it's such a shame that an actor of his calibre is yet to have his full talent tapped into. Vivaan Shah manages to hold his own amongst the veterans and is quite likeable and I quite enjoyed both Boman Irani and Sonu Sood's performances too, especially because they too didn't take themselves too seriously.
The real show stealer for me though, and hands down the best thing in the film was Deepika Padukone, who simply dazzles in her part as a spunky airhead, looking droolworthy besides. It's just a shame that she comes nearly an hour into the film, although her sizzling entry is definitely worth the wait and then some.
At a three hour running time, Happy New Year is still much too long though, and could have easily been trimmed by at least twenty minutes to keep its momentum going. Besides, some of the toilet humour in the film (a character that vomits on a regular basis anyone?), and its consistent disregard for people with certain disabilities, however mild, was still in pretty poor taste and I definitely expected more from the people behind this film.
Still, for all its flaws, Happy New Year, surprisingly, turns out to be a suitably festive, engaging and entertaining ride that's far better than it was expected to be. Against my better judgement (was it something I drank I wonder), I'm going with three stars. If you go with minimal expectations, you might, just might, be pleasantly surprised.