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Badhaai Ho

Jeetender Kaushik (Gajraj Rao), a late-middle-aged man working in railways, gets his meek wife Priyamvada (Neena Gupta) pregnant, and the world — which includes his two sons (Ayushmann Khurrana, Shardul Rana) — can’t digest the fact that a couple in their 50s still have a bedroom life.

A brief silence, followed by a mix of shock, awe and chuckles, soon becomes the dominant expression in this extremely enjoyable film from director Amit Ravindernath Sharma (Tevar) and writers Shantanu Srivastava, Akshat Ghildial and Jyoti Kapoor.

Eventually Khurrana’s character, who is perhaps more jolted by the notion of being ridiculed by his friends than anything else, gets a good talking-to by his girlfriend (Sanya Malhotra, last seen as Chutki in Pataakha).

Khurrana, who has a knack of finding engaging, original scripts to star in, takes the backseat to Rao and Gupta — the real stars of the show, and excellent actors to boot. In a fleeting moment or two, one sees more romance between Jeetender and Priyamvada than many extended moments of the younger generation.

Small, genuine instances of everyday life take precedence in the build-up of the story, which is hardly bigger than its one-line premise. In fact, the trailer shows you everything right till the climax — and even then there is little that sullies one’s experience.

Badhaai Ho scores high on entertainment right till the credits roll, Namaste England is just passable, Kajol’s perky, plucky, worry-prone persona in Helicopter Eela is both familiar and arresting and FryDay’s two-hour runtime isn’t really bothersome

Namaste England

In Namaste England — not to be confused with Namastey London, also directed by Vipul Amrutlal Shah (who seriously needs to look for new titles) — a young Punjabi man and woman start a fling, get married and eventually find their way to London, only to realise that their real world is back in India. The End.

Yes, that is it. Getting to that point, however, takes 141 minutes and a draggy, annoying first half.

Namaste England becomes passable entertainment because of three supporting characters — the heroine’s friend (Shreya Mehta), a bored-with-life liar who has a nasty habit of making smacking noises with her mouth; the heroine’s other friend (Mallika Dua) who had made it to England and now has an annoying British accent; and a promiscuous, but good-hearted Londoner (Alankrita Sahai) who just wants to settle down with the right man.

Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra get a few scenes to show their competency as actors, especially post-interval which, despite being entirely clichéd, is surprisingly tolerable.

That’s not really a big saving grace but when one spends good hard-earned cash on a cinema ticket, finding some grace is better than none at all.

Helicopter Eela

Helicopter Eela, Director Pradeep Sarkar’s pitch-perfect story of a clingy mother and her son is the stuff great indie-cinema is made of.

Sarkar’s powerful directorial hand guides the film’s characters — Eela (Kajol), a single mother who once aspired to be a playback singer and her son Viv (Riddhi Sen) — through a difficult-to-frame narrative.

Eela starts way back in the late ’90s, a few months before MTV India is set to debut. Her boyfriend Arun (Eela, Arun — got the pun?), the supporting good-guy type played by Tota Roy Chowdhury, uses his connections in the music industry to get Eela a gig, singing a remix of Ruk Ruk Ruk from the movie Vijaypath. The song rockets her into an overnight sensation.

Like this particular rendition of the song (remade by composer Raghav Sachar, sung by Palomi Ghosh), the world Eela inhabits has a quirky nostalgic spin from the norm (especially in its depiction of Bollywood). The screenplay is so effortless and perceptive that the plot simply slips from one story-arc to the next without one noticing.

Other than Sarkar (whose filmography is made up of Parineeta, Laaga Chunri Mein Daag, Lafangay Parinday and Mardaani), there is something familiar and arresting about Kajol’s perky, plucky, worry-prone persona. Sometimes one feels that the actress is just play-acting herself (produced by Ajay Devgan, this is a family production after all).

In Sarkar’s able hands, and his penchant for designing strong, appealing female-centric films, Kajol gives one of her sincerest performance right till the slightly groan-inducing finale at a talent show (what is with Bollywood and talent shows?).

Until that bombastic cliché, everything is blemish-free.

FryDay

Rajiv (Varun Sharma), a water purifier salesman with wobbly composure and high morals, gets pristine advice from a confidence-building coach (Piyush Mishra): feign assertion, be chirpy and play up to people.

Armed with this new knowledge, Rajiv ends up in the middle of a screwball, slapstick charade when he goes to install a purifier at a woman’s house whom he had emotionally manipulated earlier.

The woman’s husband, Gagan (Govinda), a stage actor who has a nasty habit of eating up other actors’ dialogues during performances, is the philandering type who is in midst of getting his groove on with a policeman’s wife (Digangana Suryavanshi) when Rajiv rings the doorbell.

I leave the rest of this cliché to your imagination. Just don’t flex your brain muscles too much; screenwriters Rajeev Kaul, Manurishi Chadha and director Abhishek Dogra certainly didn’t.

Unsurprisingly, FryDay lets Govinda and Sharma run loose with the shenanigans. Also, unsurprisingly, they’re quite good at it (the veteran actor’s timing is better than what it was a few years back).

The two actors and the supporting cast move from one farce to another in a one-set location. The jokes work at times even if there is little to genuinely laugh at, and the nearly two-hour runtime isn’t really bothersome — if you have time to kill.

Published in Dawn, ICON, October 28th, 2018

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