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Yamla Pagla Deewana: Phir Se

A yurvedic medicine, it seems, has the power to grant super-heroic powers. Once one surrenders to this fact, then it is not that difficult accepting Sunny Deol’s feats of strength in Yamla Pagla Deewana: Phir Se (YPD3).

After a perkily narrated introduction of how Ayurvedic medicine helped cure a Mughal prince’s libido problems, and then rid Queen Victoria of pimples, we jump to the present where Deol drags two tractors to the finish line in a tug-of-war match.

Deol plays Pooran, a local medicine man from a long-line of Ayurveda practitioners, who is not in it for the money. Like all soft-hearted idealists, he runs his small shop for the betterment of all mankind.

When not curing children’s eyesight or adding health and longevity to 90-year-olds’ lives, Pooran is crushing drinking glasses made of steel, smashing holes in building pillars — and very late in the movie — colliding straight into a speeding truck without getting so much as a scratch (the same cannot be said for the truck).

The secret to his unique power is a concoction that has been passed down in his family for generations. Naturally, a big pharma company (whose CEO is played by Mohan Kapoor) wants to buy him out. They, as one may have guessed, get the stuffing beaten out of them.

Yamla Pagla Deewana: Phir Se is an improvement over its prequels and while Stree is not perfect, it is still memorable

Pooran, though, is a calm, loving man when unprovoked, and lives with his good-for-nothing brother Kaala (Bobby Deol), two sons, and a compounder (Binnu Dhillon — who aces his small screen time). Their tenant is a shrewd lawyer (Dharmendra) whose charisma and magnetism is so natural and out-of-control that it woos goddesses from heavens; goddesses, let me clarify, that only he can see.

Out of the blue, a young surgeon from Gujarat called Cheekoo (Kriti Kharbanda) visits Pooran to learn about Ayurveda. Now the reason for a surgeon learning about ancient medicine might sound preposterous but the viewer shouldn’t mind. Ridiculousness has always been a part of YPD movies. And in comparison with the last two parts, this one is far tamer in its idiocy.

Director Navaniat Singh (a director with a long list of Punjabi film credits) sets up a very Punjabi film-like ambience. Its visuals (which includes cinematography, frames, lighting and production design) evoke memories of Carry on Jatta 2 or Vadhayiyaan Ji Vadhayiyaan. Like the latter two titles, YPD3 chooses the family-friendly route where no one turns out to be evil and we once again see the Deol family’s familial bonds take centre stage.

What one does mind is the draggy post-intermission run of the movie, and the fact that the filmmakers didn’t seriously invest the time in writing an engaging screenplay. Nevertheless, YPD3 is a big improvement in the series.

Stree

The men of a small town called Chanderi don’t go out at night, because a veiled witch, who only targets men, roams the streets. The women are fine though, not that it makes a smidgen of a difference given how they are treated by men and the movie’s screenplay.

When you think about it, Chanderi men had it coming. Most of the men we see in the film are cowards who see women as the object of their lusty desires. In one scene, for example, a group of hormonally-excited men gather in a secluded house to drink and party and one of the guys invites a woman over for “friendship” — which, in Stree, is a synonym for prostitution or granting sexual favours. Secretly indulging in prostitution, or just being lewd is a part of who these people are, and the filmmakers spare little time in making us realise this before the plot gains momentum.

Out of the low-lives at the party is a “prince” called Vicky (Rajkumar Rao) — a virgin who will, eventually, rid the town of the evil witch. Vicky is a tailor with a unique skillset; he doesn’t need measuring tape to figure out women’s proportions. Although he hardly sews, people all over applaud his talent. One day, a beautiful woman with no name (Shraddha Kapoor), who appears and disappears in mere seconds when no one is looking, asks him to make her a suit. Vicky, being a pent-up virgin, is instantly smitten by her — a woman he knows no one else has seen.

One need not be a genius to figure out that there is something uncanny about her, or that she may indeed be the witch who is terrorising the town’s men.

Stree is “based on a ridiculous phenomenon” (the film opens with these words) — an urban legend of a demon ‘stree’ [woman], who enters houses that do not have “O Woman, please come tomorrow” written on the front. Although the myth is weaved into the plot, screenwriters Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. deliberately limit the legend to its bare mimum. The duo, instead choose to build the plots’ ambiance in a ludicrous setting that doesn’t need much of a story in the first place.

Unlike run-of-the-mill horror movies, this one is made with a distinctive style and point of view. Debuting director Amar Kaushik uses the ‘80s teen-horror cliché of a virgin saviour within the narrative style of a South Korean movie. The story’s setting, in particular, reminds me of The Wailing, a 2016 release that became an instant classic.

Like The Wailing, Stree indulges in multiple stories that do not necessarily evoke horror. Actually, horror might be the wrong genre classification, because the movie has a comical outlook throughout its runtime.

Stree is not a perfect picture. However it often displays enough sparks to make it memorable; at least until something better comes along in the genre.

Published in Dawn, ICON, September 9th, 2018