Film kitni bhi hatke ho, log dekhenge to baith ke hi,” says Govinda’s fading superstar to an author suffering from writer’s block in Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK’s Happy Ending. The hero adds for good effect, “Don’t try to teach people the meaning of life after they have bought a ticket for `300.”
So the film tries not to do that and cuts back to Govinda who wants to transition from the single screen halls to multiplexes with a film that is a cross between Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers. He stands in the unsparing gaze of the camera with black ink markings etched across his jiggly stomach because even he knows that six pack abs are de rigueur if you want to walk towards the sunset with your shirt open. Even if it is the surgeon’s scalpel that will get you there.
In retrospect, that is the cleverest part of the movie which in the beginning reminds of many films where heroes boogie with white girls and play heart-breakers till the desi girl of their dreams walks into the frame.
There are also shades of Peyton Reed’s 2003 comedy Down with Love where two authors play at being adversaries but end up falling in love. A poster of The Ugly Truth also establishes early on that we are not going to get a sappy romantic saga. In a wry comment on mediocrity in the publishing industry, we have Yudi (Saif) an author who is riding the wave of a fluke bestseller before he crashes and burns and Anchal (Ileana D’Cruz) who has snagged a three book deal after writing a romantic novel full of platitudes even though she has no illusions about the business of love.
There are nice asides like a still vibrant Preity Zinta, playing an empathetic ex-girlfriend and Kareena Kapoor as one of the many girls Yudi cannot commit to.
Kalki Koechlin, once against typecast as the possessive girlfriend, has moments of manic laughter, wide-eyed disbelief and giddy headed proclamations of love. Ranvir Shorey plays the same role that Arshad Warsi played in Salaam Namastey. That of a married man with the heart of a bachelor.
Anchal and Yudi hook up over snide bantering about each other’s books and end up singing songs together in a road trip that recall some of the cheesiest moments from the 80s and 90s Hindi cinema. From Loveria hua, to Why did you break my heart? to Saif’s own breakout hit Ole Ole. They even dare each other to strip in order to hitch a ride and write and eat and laugh together and develop an easy intimacy and a camaraderie which they hope won’t lead to love.
Yudi’s fatter and wiser alter ego Yogi oversees the developing relationship from the side-lines as does Preity Zinta’s Divya, who juggles three children, a possessive husband with her almost maternal concern for Yudi.
The film meanders pleasantly across California’s beaches and San Francisco’s streets and indulges itself with songs (two of which have rather blatant double entendre) that probably should not have been there if this was meant to be a spoof on the cliches peddled by Hindi romcoms.
But then a Hindi film can’t risk being too intelligent so we have women slithering across poles and dancing in polka dotted bikinis just to keep reality in perspective.
The film is salvaged by really fun performances of Govinda, Saif, Preity and Ileana D’Cruz, who looks the part of a young, modern woman living in the moment without too much baggage.
The film has some clever lines but you wonder if they missed out on something fundamental to a romantic comedy. Romance.
The film is smart in parts and enjoyable but does not have moments that linger or make you want to come back for more.
Govinda however once again shows why his brand of cinema worked in the 90s. It is because no matter what he did, he did it with conviction.
This is cinema that laughs at itself but then does not really know where to go from there. Watch it for the actors though.
You won’t get a life lesson but a few grins are guaranteed.