Raj and DK, the duo that gave winsome flicks in 99, Shor in the City, Go Goa Gone (not to mention one of the purest indie film you’d see – their first – Flavors) are back with a quasi-parody of the romantic comedy genre with Happy Ending. The problems with the film are that it never settles on one thing that the film wants to do. It’s not a complete parody or spoof but it is also not the affecting romantic comedy it sometimes tries to be. It does a bit of both. But like the title and the philosophy it espouses, the joy is in the journey and not the destination. Happy Ending is stuffed with enough moments to make it as smooth a ride as the ones you’d take along the Pacific Coast.
Raj and DK are known to work well with ensemble characters. Right from Flavors to 99 to Shor in the City this has worked beautifully. Maybe that’s why no character here feels one dimensional the way they are usually drawn in romantic comedies even though the film as a whole focuses only on the principal cast’s story. In fact there are possibly two projections of Yudi (Saif Ali Khan). One is acknowledged, the other not so. There is Yogi (you see, he is the wise man, calm and full of sensible advice and philosophy), a projection of Yudi’s stream of consciousness. If you don’t get it we even see Yudi, a writer, with The Complete Plays of Anton Chekhov on his table. The other seems to be the hilarious Montu (Ranvir Shorey in glorious form) who comes across as the man the commitment phobic Yudi would have become had he reciprocated the feelings of one of his girlfriends.
Happy Ending is also self-referential. Yudi is forced to work on a romantic comedy script by Armaan (Govinda), a film star as narcissistic as they come. Raj and DK also use Armaan as the mouthpiece for all the spoofs on the functioning of the film industry. There is even a moment in the end when Yudi realizes his script has morphed into something else during shooting. The director asks, “first time hai na?”. Yudi in turn uses his own budding relationship with another writer Aanchal Reddy (Ileana D’Cruz) to feed the script. We get helpful script scribblings on screen with Scene 9, Scene 18, “the dhinchak song”, “boy chases girl” titles. There is even the “airport wala scene” that doesn’t wait till reaching the airport to transpire, reflecting the nature of the conversation. Yudi’s relationship with Vishakha (Kalki Koechlin) is played for laughs, the best scenes involving a “No Space” app and a “pregnant pause”. The relationship with Aanchal is more of the Love Aaj Kal variety and Saif and Ileana also play parts very similar to the leads in that film. Even the trajectories are similar and therefore predictable but that’s probably the point. The whole is not necessarily better than than the sum of its parts but the Yudi-Aanchal romance is, to its credit, organic especially the parts from their trip to San Francisco.
Two weeks running we have films that have underused Govinda. He is a stealer in the scenes he’s featured in but those are hard to come by. Govinda’s Armaan is intended as a caricature of a very 90s projection of a film star. And it’s absolute perfection he’s cast in that role. He’s even mentioned in the opening credits as “and above all – Govinda” but the film hardly does justice to that. What the film does justice to is the 90s. The 90s were simultaneously endearing and cringe inducing especially with the nostalgic lens and it is a surprise no film has actually celebrated it thus far and definitely not as successfully as Happy Ending. Yudi and Aanchal drive to San Francisco and the delightful parts of that are in the ode to the songs of the 90s. From Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman to Baazigar to Sabse Bada Khiladi to Kalnaayak to Yeh Dillagi for the Saif reference. If you are a 90s kid, you can’t help but choose this as the stretch that makes the film. Literally and metaphorically, Raj and DK once again stressing the wonder of the journey.
(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)