It’s precarious to attempt xenophobic jokes that involve good-natured mocking of another country or your long-time rivals, but director Mudassar Aziz does a fine job of it in his latest comedy Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi.
The Bollywood comedy of errors, set against the backdrop of mistaken identities in China, has a volley of jabs directed at Pakistan and China. But credit has to be given where it’s due. Actor Jimmy Sheirgill, who returns as the rakish politician from Punjab, Daman Singh Baaga, in the second part of 2016 caper, delivers those tricky jokes with his trademark poker face. His sardonic dialogue delivery and wry digs at all those around him, as well as himself, is a treat to watch.
He’s still unlucky in love and his streak of getting stood up at the altar — while on a horse in ornate clothes — gathers more merit in the second instalment. A bizarre circumstance involving some convoluted global trade deals later, Baaga finds himself in China along with his Pakistani partner-in-crime Usman Afridi, played by Piyush Mishra. They both have the most endearing chemistry between them and director Aziz milks it to the last drop.
Sonakshi Sinha and singer Jassie Gill are the new additions to the original that was dominated by Diana Penty as the feisty Punjabi lass who does a runner in her wedding to Baaga. There’s very little of Penty in the second instalment. But we aren’t complaining. Sinha, as Harpreet Kaur, stands tall among a talented set of actors. The adage, ‘what’s in a name?’, gathers a whole new meaning when kidnappings orchestrated by goofy villains in slick suits go wrong when they pick up the wrong woman with the same name at the airport. The moment the two Happys (Sinha and Penty) set foot on the China soil, all hell breaks loose.
Gill, as the unassuming Indian expatriate in China who is reluctantly pulled into Happy’s [Sinha] messy world, is a revelation. He displays a quiet confidence and it’s heartening to watch him spar with Baaga — who’s also thrown into the identity mix-up crises.
The spine of any comedy relies a lot on its ineffective, zany villains. HPBJ has its fair share of them. Actor Denzil Smith as a suave and erudite businessman — with a penchant for teaching the Chinese how to make a biryani and not just their sticky rice in his down time — builds a good case for himself. He’s polished on the surface, but rotten inside. If you ask what his crime is, then I wouldn’t be able to answer because the conflicts are way too convoluted in this comedy. There’s some talk of trade agreements with China and India, but its relevance remains shaky.
While the plot twists in this mad caper is predictable, what finally wears down this comedy is its interminable, long-winded length. At 135-minute running time, it gets tedious and your interest tends to wane with all the random mix-ups that are thrown your way. While it’s refreshing to see a loose structure in a comedy, some of the twists seem painfully needless.
But it has some smart, sassy one-liners. They don’t try too hard at the humour and that has its own appeal. You are likely to walk out of cinemas with a smile on your face, but that smile could have developed into a hearty grin had the length been snipped by at least 20 minutes.
But it’s still a jolly ride for the viewers.
Check it out!
Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi
Director: Mudassar Aziz
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Jimmy Sheirgill, Jassie Gill, Piyush Mishra, Diana Penty, Ali Fazal and Denzel Smith
Stars: 3 out of 5