(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)
The universe can be brutal. It’s not even a week since everyone got done with the nepotism debate – from the attempted award show comedy, the backlash, the empty apologies to Saif Ali Khan’s thesaurus diarrhea and open letters – we already have a flag-bearer Friday. This time it is called Mubarakan, directed by Anees Bazmee. It’s like the universe telling everyone – oh you don’t like nepotism in Bollywood? How cute. Here is your order of two Arjun Kapoors, one Anil Kapoor (in turban), one Athiya Shetty in an Anees Bazmee film. Any drinks to wash that down? That’s when you feel maybe it is not the universe that is brutal. It could just be the Bollywood machinery. Not a single name in that list is appealing or fills you with confidence. Anil Kapoor is fine but then you remember that it is a film by Bazmee. With the double bill of the least talented beneficiary of nepotism, Mubarakan has almost nothing going for it. Even Tiger Shroff – who can dance – is sniggering.
To be honest, Mubarakan isn’t terrible in the way Bazmee’s earlier films like Welcome, Welcome Back or Thank You are. It has what is popularly known as the idiot plot, where there would be no movie if the characters just talked to each other. But they don’t and therefore we have Mubarakan. In some twisted, misplaced, nostalgic way, I wish more people attempted (and do better) such throwbacks. We have stopped making films like Mubarakan. There was a time when comedies in the mainstream format meant only movies such as these. The familial confusions, the double acts, mistaken identities. Priyadarshan and David Dhawan made a career out of these in Bollywood and not always devoid of merit. Bazmee wants to hold on to something that he believes is precious. So, he also hangs on to the only constant from that time and those films – Anil Kapoor. Kapoor plays Kartar Singh, the unmarried uncle to Karan and Charan, who looks and acts less like an uncle and more like a friend. Which is all to say that Anil Kapoor is playing himself. Karan and Charan are twins separated at birth. But they did not really go anywhere. After their parents passed away in a hilariously shot accident (the scene that opens the film), the boys were each adopted by one of Kartar’s elder siblings.
That’s also the problem with Mubarakan. Just when you think there is a more interesting plot point building up, it all fizzles out. It’s charming that Bazmee wants to revive this genre but there are no funny lines and no actors who can make lines funny. One Arjun Kapoor is a soul crushing experience. Two Arjun Kapoors can be like dementors planting a wet one on you. Athiya Shetty has lesser lines than Neha Sharma but it is Shetty who is technically the fourth lead – you know why. Ileana D’Cruz deserves a better class of film even as Ratna Pathak and Pavan Malhotra take fat paychecks home. The only solace here is that Bazmee is not Sajid Khan. Mubarakan is no Housefull. That counts for something, right?