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Sweet-sour gone bitter

Sweet-sour gone bitter
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First Published: Fri, Jul 23 2010. 09 22 PM IST

Forgettable: Akshay Kumar’s role has a common man quality to it, but none of the characters in the movie are either memorable or original.
Forgettable: Akshay Kumar’s role has a common man quality to it, but none of the characters in the movie are either memorable or original.
Updated: Fri, Jul 23 2010. 09 22 PM IST
Film Review | Khatta Meetha
You might already know Sachin Tichkule from the promotions and hoardings of Khatta Meetha. He is a municipal contractor who builds roads in a small town in Maharashtra. He is the classic small-town dork—oiled hair, brown, cheap leather chappals, shirt tucked into ill-fitting pants, a bus-contractor wallet and an umbrella in his hands. So far, endearing—even promising.
Forgettable: Akshay Kumar’s role has a common man quality to it, but none of the characters in the movie are either memorable or original.
Priyadarshan’s new film unfortunately looks better in promotions. Much like his recent oeuvre, Khatta Meetha is a farce, of the loud and annoying kind. But unlike De Dana Dan, his last film, which was silly from the first scene, Khatta Meetha begins with some promise.
Sachin (Akshay Kumar) is trying to become rich as a municipal contractor. He is the black sheep and laughing stock of his family. His father, a Gandhian and former judge, has given up hope on Sachin, his youngest son, and gives in to the whims of his more successful and wealthy sons and a brother-in-law who have close ties to a local politician. They are corrupt, unethical men, unlike Sachin, who may be corrupt in small ways but is a man with a conscience. He was an idealistic student leader whose college sweetheart betrayed him. Later, after further disillusionment, he turned into the petty, laughable contractor he is. His failures are endless—mishap after mishap, disaster after disaster, Sachin becomes the kind of protagonist you can’t identify with by the time the film’s first half ends. His old sweetheart (Trisha) returns as the municipal commissioner of the town. Conflicts with her, and later a sentimental reconciliation, lead Sachin to the last chance he has to prove that he is a good man and a real hero. Some implausible situations and action sequences lead to a banal, cacophonous climax.
The film is meant to be a satire on petty corruption—how the most idealistic and conscientious common man can turn unethical to fit in and become successful. Sachin has annoying bouts of talking down to people. His physical gestures are that of a bumbling idiot, but when he is in a spot with the authorities or with his corrupt brothers and miserable father, he produces litanies on the hopeless state of our nation. He is the foolish, laughable man nobody takes seriously except the commissioner who falls in love with him again after a really long and schmaltzy scene in a hospital (ironically, the lady is in hospital after she tried to commit suicide because of something Sachin did to take revenge on her!).
Plot twists such as this and others, meant just to propel the story further and without any logic, add to the length of the film—more than 3 hours, with some cheesily choreographed songs, jarringly different in look from the kind of milieu the story is set in.
Like all of Priyadarshan’s comedies, Khatta Meetha has a huge ensemble cast. Comedians such as Rajpal Yadav, Johnny Lever and Asrani do what they always do—gesticulate and act stupid. Khatta Meetha will have you chuckling in the beginning, but the humour becomes repetitive and tiring. Beyond an hour, it tests your patience.
Priyadarshan has spawned a genre out of these comedies. It is obvious that it has become too easy for him to put a huge ensemble cast together and produce a hit. Khatta Meetha has the stamp of a director who has no imagination or control—it’s as if he let the plot and actor loose, certain that the foolproof crowd-pleaser formula will work.
Kumar’s career needs some serious mending. Here he is in safe and familiar territory. Comedy is the only genre for which he has shown some talent. 2009 and 2010, especially, have been the nadir of his career, with roles in huge-budget films that have become monumental flops.
Although the character of Sachin itself is well-written and has a distinctly charming common man quality to it, his dialogues are overwritten and too melodramatic to make the character believable. Kumar manages some moments of perfect comic timing, but that is more to do with the physical gestures he adopts than the way he emotes. It doesn’t help that his dialogues are long and mundane—a far cry from R.K. Laxman’s “common man”. The director is clearly not in control here, because Kumar is glaringly raw and laboured in some scenes.
There is nothing memorable or original in the way the rest of the characters are written. Most of Priyadarshan’s recent films have had comic characters that are exaggerations of one trait—a forgetful man, a lech, a man with a stammer, a cute sister who is at the mercy of the men in her life and such-like. His best, such as Hera Pheri, had characters who were funny because of their unusual quirks.
Khatta Meetha is full of platitudes and stereotypes and Kumar can’t rescue the film from them.
Khatta Meetha released in theatres on Friday.
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First Published: Fri, Jul 23 2010. 09 22 PM IST