Sagar Ballary’s Bheja Fry was an unexpected success at the box office when it released in 2007. A remake of the French comedy The Dinner Game, it wowed multiplex audiences and was a kind of a template for the success of the small film in urban centres. The sequel, Bheja Fry 2, arrives four years later, when the protagonist Bharat Bhushan (Vinay Pathak), an income-tax inspector and a bumbling nerd given to annoying bouts of naive moralizing, is part of a TV game show.
It’s the same Bharat. In pitch, physicality and tone, Pathak has managed to stay with the character. The story by Ballary and Sharad Katariya is original and the writing has some knee-slapping humour.
This is a brand of humour not meant to have cerebral nuances—the linear narrative has the mandatory laughing stock, the wicked sleazebag and the good girl. The film lacks the vivacious comic energy of the first instalment, and the second part of the film slackens, but there are some laugh-out-loud scenes which sustain the momentum until the end of the first half.
Comic encounters: Vinay Pathak (left) and Kay Kay Menon are worth a watch in Bheja Fry 2.
After winning the top prize in the game show, Bharat is on a cruise where he meets the murky industrialist Ajit Talwar (Kay Kay Menon) who, incidentally, is being chased by the income-tax department. On board, in disguise, is Bharat’s colleague and friend M.T. Shekharan (Suresh Menon), who is his polar opposite and best friend. When Talwar finds out there is an income-tax man aboard the ship—and he is unaware of Shekharan—he wants to somehow get rid of him which, in this case, means throwing him into deep water. Meanwhile, Bharat is in love with Ranjini (Minissha Lamba), who also captures Ajit’s attention. Because of a bizarre accident, Ajit too falls into the sea and the two are then stranded on an island.
The Hindi film music obsessed Bharat sings almost all through the film, much to the annoyance of Ajit. He has irrational and naive responses to every kind of situation and has a way of explaining everything around him. After the first half, the gags become repetitive and much of the second half seems unnecessarily stretched.
The saving grace is an absurd sequence that unfolds when Ajit and Bharat, meandering across the shore looking for a way off the island, stumble upon a hut from which they hear strains of opera. The resident is Raghu Barman (Amole Gupte), a madcap, gun-toting gypsy, and as they enter his kitschy beach pad seeking help, hysterical situations are set in motion.
Performances lift the film’s laboured build-up. Kay Kay Menon appears in a major role after a long time and does justice to the role of the arrogant industrialist at his wit’s end, away from his comfort zone. Suresh Menon, with the most banal lines, meant to be delivered in thickly accented Hindi, can’t do much to rescue his role. Pathak, at the centre of the film, delivers a winning performance as Bharat.
Neither the first film nor the sequel is intelligent, ingenious comedy. But both films are better than the regressive slapstick that passes off as Hindi comedies at the theatres these days.
Bheja Fry 2 released in theatres on Friday.
The other two releases of the week
ALWAYS KABHI KABHI
A campus film by debutant director Roshan Abbas, ‘Always Kabhi Kabhi’ centres around two boys and two girls in their teens who are torn between their own ambitions and outlook on life and what their parents expect of them. In treatment, it is far from ‘3 Idiots’ and more ‘High School Musical’-meets-‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ kind of teeny-bopper drama with song and dance. Produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, it has Zoa Morani, Ali Fazal, Giselle Monteiro and Satyajeet Dubey in the lead roles.
BHINDI BAAZAAR INC.
Set in the famous Mumbai neighbourhood, usually portrayed in pop culture as a Muslim ghetto with good street food, director Ankush Bhatt’s ‘Bhindi Baazaar Inc.’ is about two warring pickpocket mafias—Hindu and Muslim. It is a comment on the neighbourhood’s wasted youth and how the place weighs on them in their attempts to step out of it—a few kilometres away, there is affluence and changing aspirations. The film’s language is derivative, reminiscent of the iconic gangster film ‘Satya‘, like many Indian movies of this decade are.
Pawan Malhotra, Prashant Narayanan, Deepti Naval and Piyush Mishra deliver powerful performances but a ludicrous second half kills the grittiness with which the film builds up.
‘Always Kabhi Kabhi’ and ‘Bhindi Baazaar Inc.’ released in theatres on Friday.