Farah Khan’s latest venture, Happy New Year, is out in theaters this weekend. And even if you are a plonked outcast lying in some run down part of any city in India, or a swanky tycoon flying around the world for business, you would have come across the obnoxiously omnipresent promotional wave of HNY. Much thanks to Farah’s unapologetic muse and the producer of the film, Shah Rukh Khan, and his army of men who have made sure that HNY becomes a household name, even before its release. The first promo did not create the waves SRK or Farah may have expected it to and neither did the subsequent songs, clumsily painting a lopsided picture of HNY. However, this did not stop their team to serenade all our senses with overdoses of publicity for HNY, so much so that it cooked a pretty smashing buzz for the film, whether good or bad, right before its release. Post Tees Maar Khan, has Farah been able to resurrect herself?
Now before we step into a cantankerous analysis of the film, or of my review for taking a particular side, let me make my point of view clear at the onset. I have said this time and again, and I must say it again, every film must be judged on the basis of what it set out to do and if it achieved that. And not on the basis of what we wanted it to do. Farah Khan makes genre-specific films, binging on spoof, homage and self-referential humor, all done in a true blue mainstream fashion, doused with standard set pieces of action, romance and comedy from masala films. Our Indian audience itself is looking for escapist entertainment but are wary of patronization, or a misuse of the genre insulting their basic intelligence or simply being served puerility or rotten slapstick in the garb of a fresh film. There is a thin line in this genre space to make a nonsensical film and Farah knows it very well. Yes, Happy New Year is a large buffet of nonsense but it does not make a fool out of its audience. Infact, it chooses to laugh at itself, sometimes by caricatures, tributes to 70s films, tributes to SRK’s own films, or just by using character quirks that have been planted with astute intentions. If you cannot adhere to this slightly warped line of thought, it will be very easy for you to hate Happy New Year from the first frame. And boy, this is one indulgent masala film where Farah expects its audience to be patient for full 3 hours. A bit overlong there, but more on that in a bit.
If you can suspend your disbelief and ruminations for logic, Farah displays some precocious handling of the subject matter at hand using all her tools very smartly. Her biggest strength is the varied bunch of characters she has collected for HNY and the screenplay (Farah Khan, Althea Kaushal) uses them manipulatively, yet intelligently, to tell a long sentimental tale of revenge, theft, dance, love, companionship and virtue. A bit slow with character introductions, HNY picks up its guns right when the characters are supposed to participate in World Dance Championship, in order to access a vault to steal some diamonds which will complete their revenge. Ocean’s Eleven meets Step Up meets Farah Khan? Yeah, pretty much, except that everything is taken very lightly here and everyone seems to be having a ton of fun. The good part is that this is not a star driven vehicle and there is ample spotlight on all actors, despite being a special place for SRK. Even when the narrative dips majorly in the second half, what sustains is the self-indulgent, irreverent insanity of Farah who goes about explaining her heist plan to you, wrapped around the world of dance. You are not supposed to take all this seriously like the characters are making it out to be. It is a world of convenience and mawkish instances that fill up the spandex and she gives you exactly what is expected. Yet, I would trim the film compulsively by 20-25 minutes as it gets a bit too drab at places. Unfortunately, what doesn’t work for Farah is the forced patriotism through the championship and the hokey injections of misplaced emotions, both at regular intervals. Overall, it is the tone in which Farah handles HNY that makes it work for most parts.
Produced by Red Chillies Entertainment, Happy New Year can boast of fleeting loveliness instead of any lasting greatness. Every frame is loud, garish and over the top and a ridiculous amount of money has been poured into it. Manush Nandan’s Cinematography, Shashank Tere’s Production Design and Farah’s own vision mount the film on the sprawling canvas of gloss, glitter and glamour. Anand Subaya and Tushar Parekh’s Editing could have saved the film from testing the patience of its audience but they chose not to do so. Music by Vishal Shekhar is not at its best, but does not hurt the film as Farah barely focuses on the intricacies of dance moves for the championship. The film runs on Mayur Puri’s dialogue which calculatedly shifts the focus to emotions, quirk and spoofs. Happy New Year wears its cost and is a spiffy attempt in production values, with no compromises made.
With the large scale of HNY, it also needed a sweeping ensemble cast. Deepika Padukone and Abhishek Bachchan steal the show here. Deepika is utterly gorgeous, perky and capable of taking over any star in a frame with her resplendent confidence. As Mohini, she shines once again and woos you like never before. Abhishek gets to do the tomfoolery he is best at, last seen in Bol Bachchan, and he keeps the slapstick in check. Boman Irani produces a fresh spin for the Parsi man and adds to the flair. Sonu Sood, as the short tempered Jag, joins Shah Rukh Khan in pumping the whole annual stock of steroids, followed by random disturbing closeups of their chiseled bodies, at the bat of an eyelid. While SRK himself does not have much to perform, he allows others to take charge whenever Farah allows him to. Vivaan Shah does not seem like a patch on his father but works well in the boy next door zone. Jackie Shroff, as the unreasonably motivated villain, does his best to play the evil one, with much gutso but very little power, or so it seems. Amongst the special appearances, one must mention the disconcerting sight of seeing Vishal Dadlani and Anurag Kashyap pull off an appalling gag as the competition judges.
On the whole, Happy New Year is a prudish attempt in a specific mainstream genre space and does not try to furtively be an intellectual film. Instead, it leans back and laughs at itself which is what works for it. It is a remarkable assured departure from Tees Maar Khan for Farah, but lags behind her earlier films, Om Shanti Om and Main Hoon Naa, which I enjoyed much more. Despite its length, the film does not lose its narrative goals, even though however stupid they may be. And that is more than I expected out of it. The film is supposed to have taken a thundering start at the Box Office as the numbers pour in, and I figure the only thing that will hinder its run is the runtime, making the audience justifiably exasperated. Happy New Year promises and delivers a lot of fun if you are ready to enter the Farah Khan world. As a film by itself, it is far from perfect but the compelling cacophony could sometimes be the getaway we are looking for, instead of some bloated display of artistry. Its festive season and that is exactly the mood of this film, so go for it with your whole family!
Rating – 3/5