As far as tonal shifts go Bangistan goes bust with its prayers for world peace. It starts as a straight out satire that’s comfortably set in a fictitious country – in a place called Bangistan divided by religion, values and the weather into north and south. It introduces you to Bangistan with its exaggerated version of the real world setting and goes for easy laughs. The kind that you break out in an instant and immediately wonder why was that even funny. Religious heads using Skype and mentioning Twitter? BPOs with anglicized names for employees and Ram Leela drawing no audience? These were fun in blogs and that was at least a decade ago. But you soon realize that is all Karan Anshuman’s Bangistan has to offer.
That the satire of Bangistan lacks nuance is one thing. There isn’t even an attempt to go beyond the obvious. The filmmakers needn’t have taken any effort to soften their blow – if you could call it that – because no one was going to dignify this attempt by taking offense (but what do I know, on the lines of truth is stranger than fiction and satire is nothing compared to reality, the film is reportedly banned in UAE and Pakistan). Even Welcome 2 Karachi, a film belonging to the same genre (Are terrorists/religion spoofing films a genre now? It’s fairly limited to be one going by the examples we’ve had so far.) wasn’t as lazy as Bangistan. It also had Arshad Warsi who could make the stalest of jokes work with his timing and modulation. But neither Riteish Deshmukh nor Pulkit Samrat can pack half as much into their lines. The most offensive moment in the film is watching Samrat do a Robert De Niro in front of the mirror. Anshuman hopes the references to Citizen Kane and Taxi Driver would add something to this already soporific film but they are just there for no reason. Like Jacqueline Fernandez’s Rosy. She’s there because someone probably pointed out midway that their film is dominated by men and has no place for a woman.
A film that worked this set up with an infectious zest was Tere Bin Laden. Tere Bin Laden’s biggest strength – in addition to its devil-may-care attitude – was that it never took itself too seriously. It knew that all it had to do was make you laugh. But halfway through, Bangistan has morphed into a shoddy low budget advertisement for world peace. It lectures and preaches its way to an ending so laborious that you have to strain yourself to remember which part of this was funny. You may come away embarrassed because the only joke that worked was that one about Chinese manufactured mobile phones.
(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)