The Daddy Mummy song in Shivam Nair’s Bhaag Johnny is of course a business decision. I was quite surprised to find it appearing out of nowhere in the film and not relegated to end credits the way most such songs are. It’s an addictive number. At least it is in its more famous original Telugu and Tamil versions. The whole thing is lost in translation. Much like this Run Lola Run inspired (I wonder what creative input made them drop a second Bhaag from the title) mess legitimized with a black magic prologue including a message in the beginning saying the film does not endorse such practices. Coming back to the song, if you ask me personally I rather prefer the Vaada Mapilley song from the same Tamil film Villu. If only they conducted surveys for these things.
To be fair, the initial portions are tight. Unfortunately everything is textured in the most generic. The fortune teller appearing in the beginning is simply named – acharya. He runs his business like a doctor but without a clinic and not so sane timings. People wait outside in the the rain to meet him in what appears to be middle of the night. It’s probably Nair saying if you want atmosphere, here take it but ask no more. He asks the woman who’s come to meet him whether she has twins for children. That’s as good a portent as any but in this film it’s not saying much. We immediately shift to Bangkok to meet Johnny (Kunal Khemu) who is in a bit of a soup thanks to his boss Ramona (Manasi Scott). An unintentionally hilarious cameo by Vikram Bhatt later, we have two scenarios laid out for Johnny.
What do you do when for the price of one film you get two? What do you do if for the price of one film you get two bad films? Both the films are ravaged by cold chases that do nothing to your pulse, bad song placements and nonexistent love stories. Not to mention horrible decision making from all characters. At one point Johnny and Mandana Karimi’s character (you get how forgettable this film is?) have just escaped on a bike from the clutches of several police officers. They met a day or so ago and most of that time he was driving her car around while she was tied up and gagged in the boot. And about three seconds after the escape we are into a song. It’s even more hilarious when you find out how this story ends. There is also a lot of déjà vu when you see Kunal Khemu running around in a foreign city going after a female antagonist. That played out about ten years ago in Kalyug, a far better film in hindsight. If not a better film, at least it was…what is that word? Sincere? Bhaag Johnny would have none of it.
A more thrilling exercise would be to go in search of Zoa Morani’s acting skills. I cannot put my finger on it but it probably has something to do with her dialogue delivery. She’s so conscious of her delivery, of where she is and what’s around her. She says her lines as if there is a teleprompter feeding them in front of her and cannot for the life of her pretend it is not there. Morani stresses on every syllable in fear of slipping up, Karimi looks like she probably walked into the sets while holidaying in Thailand and Khemu plays both the narratives straight without a hint of variation. The only one investing more than mere presence here is Manasi Scott. She’d make a great Bond girl if not a villain.
(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)