Happy New Year fits into the vintage mould of escapist cinema with director Farah Khan’s signature touch of Bollywood self-deprecation and cross-referencing. If you were expecting a thrill-every-minute a la Hollywood, sorry, this is not for you. If you are expecting intelligent wit, again, this is not for you. If you are expecting a memorable, poignant, haunting love story, look elsewhere.
Happy New Year, however, could have been all of these. That, on a critical mode, is the sad part of the film. The heist angle is lame; the comedy is often silly; and the love story is regressive, to say the least. It fails in thrilling you up with the climax or giving you goose-pimples of hope and pride that feel-good movies of Shahrukh normally do.
Even the choreography that should have been its strongest link is just about passable, despite some typical Vishal-Shekhar numbers. That way, HNY never really lives up to any measure.
You could also contend that Happy New Year sets the bar on entertainment even lower, that it tries to cater to the lowest common denominator. You could say the movie has ‘no story, yaar,’ and that ‘its script is weak.’ You could say there is ‘no logic, man,’ or that the comedy just didn’t tickle you enough.
But even as you put on your gruff unsmiling face, chances are that right next to you, someone is shrieking in laughter and rolling on the floor as Nandu (Abhishek Bachchan) comes crashing down onto his own throw-up. Disgusting? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
If you are accommodative enough to give in to escapism, let us say that the film just rolls on giving you no time or reason to think. And pray, why must you? This is a Bollywood tribute where you have a vault named ‘Shalimar,’ a heroine named Mohini (forgot Tezaab?) and a supporting actor who will break into a fit if he hears the word ‘Maa.’
Will you believe for a minute that Charlie (Shahrukh) is the Boston University topper, who takes beatings at the mud-boxing ring, as he prepares to avenge the framing of his dad (Anupam Kher in ‘an emotional appearance’)? You must not. Because what he is going to do next is even more ridiculous – rig an Indian dance competition with a bunch of losers and then pull off a heist in Dubai.
Together with Sonu Sood, an injured explosives expert, Boman Irani, a vault cracker, and Vivaan Shah, the nerd, and Nandu, Charlie takes on evil man Grover (Jackie Shroff) but only after learning some dance moves – and a few lessons in patriotism and respect – from Mohini (Deepika Padukone).
It appears that Abhishek Bachchan had the most-fun doing Happy New Year. He has the best one-liners. It is also a delight to watch Deepika evolve so confidently from her Om Shaanti Om days. Despite nothing much to do, Sonu and Boman make their presence felt, while Jackie Shroff brings the desired gravitas and Vivaan looks adequately hero-worshipping his seniors.
So how was Shahrukh? On-screen, he appeared so much dwarfed in the company of others. Close-ups, he looked aged. But what he does delightfully is give space to others – and that is commendable.
HNY might have been a wasted opportunity to ‘make a great cinema’ and it definitely reinforces all the Bollywood clichés. But it also shows that rather than meekly attempting to be Hollywood (a la the Dhooms and Bang Bangs), you can simply celebrate your own milieu – be it good or bad.