There will always be a frown or two and some skepticism when you are taking up a Basu Chatterjee film and remaking it in this day and age. Surely to survive in the mainstream scene today that lost art of holding a magnifying glass to middle class functioning will be relegated to a different brand of cinema. So Abhishek Sharma is already on shaky grounds here. And then he takes up something like Shaukeen to remake. A story about three men lusting after Rati Agnihotri in Goa. Just not any three men but men who are better off cradling their grandchildren than trying to get lucky with women a third of their age. This is not a judgement but more of a problem with treatment. Just last year there was Last Vegas with Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline. The tone and the characterization was such that we never had such issues with even an unmemorable effort like Last Vegas. But The Shaukeens wants to make it a sex comedy. That’s a noble intention but there is no evidence in the movie to say that it even remotely resembles a good one.
Pirush Mishra, Anupam Kher and Annu Kapoor play those men trying to at least get hot and heavy with Lisa Haydon. The jokes are mostly stale though the initial portions show a bit of promise thanks to some good bits of staging. The use of Saigal Blues, Pinky (Piyush Mishra) being a manufacturer of “Catch” masala, the way his sons stand between him and that Bangkok trip and he becomes frustrated enough to complain of too much salt in the food and we cut to an apparently neglected Lali (Anupam Kher) picking up salt to add to his food. These are all fine but once they land in Mauritius the film takes a tumble for the worse. Lisa Haydon’s Aphrodite looks are one thing but her playing the dumb blonde role is a complete letdown. Lisa Haydon in her first film – Aisha – played a similar role that required smouldering sexuality but instead of sketching her as dumb, her character was written as someone comfortable in her own skin and someone who is totally aware of her looks. Abhishek Sharma reverses the polarities here with respect to the original film and that simply does not work. The film is rescued by Akshay Kumar – being and playing himself.
Thank God for Akshay Kumar. You don’t hear it often but Kumar’s comic timing is something to be celebrated. The problem is his film choices are so all over the place that he rarely gives an opportunity to convincingly delve on it. He plays himself here and the way he is brought into this film is probably the single best thing about it. The self-deprecation – more of that in Hindi cinema please – works every time and his talent for the deadpan is all out here. If there is a film with Akshay Kumar playing himself, drunk to his wits but delivering all that dry humor, I’d pay to watch.
(An edited version of this was first published in The New Indian Express)