Towards the end of Arjun Patiala, there's a hat tip to the Sampoornesh Babu-starrer Singam 123. Just like that Telugu film, this Hindi movie too attempts to spoof a genre that has made superstars out of actors in Indian cinema — cop films. However, unlike Sampoornesh's films, which once saw him carry a sponge-made, spray-painted heart for a transplant, Arjun Patiala isn't quite as in on the joke as it thinks it is. This is not to say the film takes itself serious, but it pulls back the punches, and a number of gags are left incomplete.
Director Rohit Jugraj's return to Hindi cinema after a decade features an affable - as always -Diljit Dosanjh and the consistent Varun Sharma as sub-Inspector Arjun Patiala and constable Onidda Singh, respectively.
A movie-in-a-movie, Arjun Patiala begins with Abhishek Banerjee narrating a script to Pankaj Tripathi, who plays an 'I-have-never-listened-to-scripts' hit producer. Pankaj has a checklist, and Abhishek weaves in all these requirements, including a cameo by Sunny Leone, an 'absolutely-for-no-reason-item-number', five villains, and a 'heroine-in-a-chiffon-saree-during-unlikely-situations' scene. There are video game-inspired fight sequences, a random buffalo roaming inside a police station, hilarious edit patterns, and even the occasional fourth-wall breaking. However, such cheekiness is, unfortunately, let down by the film's unnecessary attempts to subvert cliches, which prove detrimental to the overall narrative.
Making spoofs is a tightrope walk that needs impeccable writing. The audience needs to be sold on the jokes. Even if there is something outlandish happening on screen, we wait for that 'punch' to land. In Arjun Patiala, the joke is set up, the build-up is impeccable, but the finishing is underwhelming. This is probably why the 107-minute film feels longer than it actually is.
One look at the star cast and it isn't too far-fetched to assume that Arjun Patiala had potential. But though actors like Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Seema Pahwa, and Ronit Roy play to the gallery, it's criminal that none of them gets enough to do in this comic caper. Even Kriti Sanon, who is generally at home in films based on small-town, feels out of place in the town of Ferozpur, which Diljit's Arjun Patiala vows to make crime-free.
Be it the impeccable comic timing of Diljit and Varun, or the hilarity that ensues when the writers deliver their jokes right, there are a lot of things that work in Arjun Patiala. How can you not laugh when an important stunt sequence has a disclaimer that says, "Due to budget constraints, we couldn't remove the safety harness and wires from the screen"? How can you suppress a smile during the 'find the alcohol consumed by smelling the burp' contest between two police officers? But is it enough? Do these occasional laughs compensate for tedium in between?
Arjun Patiala could have been Hindi cinema's answer to CS Amudhan's Tamizh Padam series. However, it misses the mark by quite a bit, as Diljit's unassuming demeanour and charming effervescence can only take you so far.
Film: Arjun Patiala
Cast: Diljit Dosanjh, Kriti Sanon, Varun Sharma, Sunny Leone
Direction: Rohit Jugraj