Director Farah Khan doesn’t do dark films. Her films are festive and celebrate all things Bollywood — the colour, the feverish dance moves and hyperbolic emotions.
But she seems to have taken a misstep with Happy New Year — despite re-uniting with her muse Shah Rukh Khan and her Om Shanti Om discovery Deepika Padukone. We are eternally grateful for the latter, but it’s difficult to forgive Farah Khan for not tapping into the collective potential of her ensemble cast (Boman Irani, Abhishek Bachchan, Sonu Sood, Vivaan Shah and Jackie Shroff).
It’s a heist thriller mixed with enough dancing to make your head spin. We are first introduced to the college graduate-but-jobless Chandramohan Sharma, also knows as Charlie, (Khan) who is nursing deep wounds. His father (Anupam Kher), who runs a business creating sturdy lockers, is duped by an evil businessman Charan Grover (Jackie Shroff) and hurtled off to jail for a robbery he didn’t commit. Charlie’s idyllic life is destroyed and he dreams of bringing down Grover. An opportunity presents itself when Grover declares on television that he’s the custodian of precious diamonds worth billions of rupees. It’s an invitation that will tempt any robber-hopeful and Charlie jumps on it like a diet-addled girl on biryani. He puts together a team that’s far from suave. This is no Ocean’s 11 in terms of suavity or style. But if you will, Reservoir (under)dogs for dummies.
‘Charlie’s Angels’, as Shah Rukh Khan calls them, are a bunch of buffoons, who we are told, are exceptional at cracking codes (Irani), hacking (Vivaan Shah) or being a doppelganger of the evil guy’s son (slum-dweller Abhishek Bachchan). They are sloppy and are in need of a crash course on competency and team work.
Forget stealing diamonds, this motley of wannabe crooks don’t seem to have the know-how to steal a safety pin from a supermarket. If their IQ comes across as low, then you should watch these guys dance since the modus operandi is to masquerade as a dance team participating in the World Dance Championship in Dubai, the place where the diamonds are parked. After a series of failed dance lessons, they stumble upon bar dancer Mohini, whose dream is to open a dance school for children. Padukone is good and some of HNY’s sparkling moments feature her.
In this splashy drama, every murky deed by the heroes is justified as some cathartic event in their lives since they were wronged in the first place.
Sometimes, you wish the makers had invested more energy into making the heist more exciting instead of justifying their intent and rolling out conduct certificates. Instead, the camera lovingly grazes Khan’s eight-pack abs and is a glorious tribute to Khan’s studied histrionics.
The robbery and its build-up should have been water-tight, but their clowning around takes up a lot of screen time making it a tedious watch. You may find yourself laughing at some of their antics, but HNY proves that nothing spectacular comes out of mixing gang robbery with grinding hips.
The team, we are told, enjoyed an enviable conflict-free camaraderie during filming, but only a slice of it has translated on screen. It’s got a few silly jokes, but they are too few to transform HNY into an engaging watch.
Bachchan Jr as the uncouth Nandu and Irani as the ageing Parsi bachelor are endearing in parts, but the simplistic story lets them down. Khan is in familiar territory and has the tendency to ham things along. My favourite scenes are the ones where famous dialogues from his previous blockbusters such as Chak De! India and Om Shanti Om are juxtaposed in this film.
The scene set in Dubai is spectacular. If Khan’s oiled abs are on full display, the scenes against the backdrop of Atlantis, The Palm, the fountains at the Dubai Mall and ice rink among others, are no less gleaming. Watch this if you love Khan and Dubai, and are good with suspending belief for over three hours.
Stars: 2 out of 5