Film Review: Happy New Year (Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone)

Extravagance, flamboyance, and entertainment. Three guarantees for a collaboration between Farah and Shahrukh Khan, and for that, Happy New Year certainly delivered. This year’s blockbuster Diwali release was the epitome of Bollywood masala, and the three-hour duration would have sailed by for the most fervent of fans.

For those who hark back to the days where the industry was first and foremost about quality over box office takings, Happy New Year is the latest in a long line of disappointments, and yet another supreme waste of talent.

The weak plot sees Charlie (Shah Rukh Khan) – at least he wasn’t called Rahul again – leading a team of “six losers” ranging from a drunkard to a bar dancer in an attempt to steal diamonds and exact revenge over Charan Grover, played by an unfortunate Jackie Shroff, who stole them from Charlie’s father, Manohar (Anupam Kher).

Of course, there was a twist. Not only was it last chance saloon, but in order to carry off the heist,  the group had to enter the ‘World Dance Championship’. Their main competitors? North Korea. No, you really couldn’t make it up.

Needless to say none of them could dance, so the skills of bar dancer and “breast-taking” Mohini (Deepika Padukone) were required who Khan repeatedly offended throughout the film, only to woo her round through the joys of the English language. Three cheers for women empowerment.

In somewhat of a surprise Abhishek Bachchan turned in a rare performance of note, playing a double-role. Bachchan offered a few amusing moments as Nandu – a drunkard who could vomit on cue -and as Grover’s son, Vikki, who spent much of the film ogling Padukone. He wasn’t the only one.

Boman Irani plays Tammy, a 50-year-old safecracker who still lives with his mother yet is adored by the Parsi community. The muscle was provided by Jag (Sonu Sood) who entered an uncontrollable rage whenever his mother was mentioned, and Vivaan Shah took on the role of Rohan, a pre-pubescent teenager with a seeming ability to hack anything and everything through just his iPad.

The music was nothing to write home about, but it wasn’t awful either. Padukone’s item number “Lovely“, was a steamy and scantily-clad affair, as well as providing her entry to the film. It was another solid performance from the actress who has cemented herself as the Queen of the industry at the moment.

The plot didn’t have the weight to hold for the whole three hours although it did pick up from a rather drab opening half, and the remarkable box-office success is testament far more to the cast, than it is to the film. With SRK ensconced in Bollywood legend, any production with him in the cast is almost certain to be a blockbuster. HNY was guaranteed this status as soon as he signed up.

Farah Khan’s remarkable skills as a director with such a lack of originality stretched to new heights, and was reliant on Shah Rukh’s illustrious resumé to provide the butt of far too many jokes.

In a repeat of the corny film references from his last outing, Chennai Express, Khan was once again forced to flashback to more self-respecting times, with quotes churned out from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Om Shanti Om, Devdas, and Main Hoon Na amongst others.  They left Padukone to do a Chak De India! style team-talk. Don’t even ask.

Perhaps I am being a bit unfair. The masala genre doesn’t dress itself as one that lends to cinematic masterpieces. An extravaganza of entertainement, colour and escapism was promised and for that HNY didn’t disappoint. I may have left feeling slightly dirty, but I had been entertained.

Nor was it a film that will be high on the list when cherry-picking SRK’s greatest hits though, and for his fans who desire a return to the 90’s or early 2000’s they would once again have felt short-changed. He says he makes films for the masses, the more cynical would claim it’s solely for the money. It’s likely a bit of both, but it is a shame that an actor of his talent seems to be shifting further away from making serious films.

If you have time to burn, and money to waste, give it a whirl. It’s not a disaster just not spectacular. Farah Khan said she doesn’t make tacky films, I’m afraid if she hadn’t already she most certainly has now.

Rating: 6/10

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