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Movie Review: Total Siyapaa

Updated March 17, 2014

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 A scene from movie, "Total Siyapaa". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Total Siyapaa". – Courtesy Photo

In Total Siyapaa, a muslim Pakistani lad and a hindu Indian lass, seek her parents approval. The problem isn’t their religion; it’s where they come from.

At times one wonders if the number of “face-palm” moments are either intentional or unintentional in Total Siyapaa*, the new Ali Zafar movie starring superficial India-hates-Pakistan sentiments, amongst other (failed) slapstick trivialities.

Mr Zafar is Aman who visits his girlfriend Aasha’s (Yami Gautam) family for an introductory meeting – even though it seems like their approval holds little consequence to their willingness to marry. If we could see the future, which thankfully we can’t because Total Siyapaa* is limited to just one mucked-up day of “meeting the parents”, then we would see who wears the pants in the family. Aman is docile, even pliable at times; Aasha is a tad dominant.

 A scene from movie, "Total Siyapaa". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Total Siyapaa". – Courtesy Photo

Her family, on the other hand, is cuckoo, with a proud predisposition against Pakistanis. Her brother, Manav (Anuj Pandit), has a constant beef against a Pakistani family living one floor below (in his first act of vengeance, he stuffs their car’s silencer with bananas like a juvenile delinquent), meanwhile Aasha’s half-blind “Dadu” (Vishwa S. Badola) shows Aman a proud rifle that gunned down four Pakistanis at war time.

Her mom – an excellent Kiron Kher – is your stereotypical Punjabi mom, reserved, happy, and pissed at the time; she is the only voice of reason in the house.

And then there is Aasha’s siren-ish sister Jia (Sara Khan), a wild-child temporarily lodging with her parents after a tiff with her penny-pinching hubby, who eyes Aman with carnal intentions. Jia is also doing a helluva job raising her daughter, a cute youngling addicted on Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayeingay with a penchant of stuffing a small pillow in her jammies and proclaiming that she’s pregnant.

 A scene from movie, "Total Siyapaa". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Total Siyapaa". – Courtesy Photo

I often wonder where children pickup stuff like this, but seeing the half-cocked devil may care attitude she is growing up in, at least here I can give a hurrah for bad parenting. In one scene, Jia reprimands her daughter when she politely asks Aman for juice. “We do not say please”, she asserts. Director E. Nivas, (Shool, Love Kay Liye Kuch Bhi Karega), never clarifies if this subtle bit of animosity is targeted to a Pakistani, or everyone in general.

Aasha’s dad (Anupam Kher), unfortunately is an after-thought, running a parallel story arc where he wakes up amnesiac in a hospital, and later mistakes a prostitute for his wife. Kher, who influences the plot in its second act, has little relevance to the story’s founding idea. Like everything else, including Zafar’s slapdash performance, his bit sticks out like a sore thumb, possibly stung by the biggest bumblebee in the Greater London area (the movie is set in London, by the way).

 A scene from movie, "Total Siyapaa". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Total Siyapaa". – Courtesy Photo

Nivas’s take, and the screenplay by Neeraj Pandey (Special 26), adapted from the movie Only Human, is often limited to confined spaces – a lot of steadicam shots – and a Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner mindset. It never really utilizes its potential (for example, dadu’s rifle, conspicuously placed on top of a cupboard, is a prime candidate for Chekhov’s Gun.

Like Zafar’s character, Total Siyapaa is produced with a domesticated attitude, as it deliberately side-steps any real Indo-Pak bad-blood in favor of passive-aggressive bickering. The kink of Aasha’s family makes some of it worthwhile, but everything else – including the what’s, why’s and where’s of Aman and Aasha’s romance, and the movie’s anti-British stance – should be taken on faith.

Released by Reliance Entertainment, Total Siyapaa is rated U/A for scenes of crude anti-India/Pakistan/Britain humor, and scenes of bad parenting.

Directed by E. Nivas; Produced by Neeraj Pandey and Shital Bhatia; Written by Mr Pandey; Cinematography by David Meadows; Edited by Shree Narayan Singh; Music by Sanjoy Chowdhury.

Starring: Ali Zafar, Yami Gautam, Anupam Kher, Kirron Kher, Sara Khan, Anuj Pandit and Vishwa S. Badola.