Meview: Very Welcome

The opening credits – still shots of the principal players to the accompaniment of the single word ‘Welcome’ – start rolling, and you know something’s on. But it hits you only with the killarious graveyard scene way into the second half. Welcome Back is a ’90s movie. And as madcap as they came.

This seems to be the era for celebrating the era in which Gen Y came to be. There have been some awesome tributes (Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha), some awful ones (Dheere Dheere aka Bore Me Slowly), and many more brewing. (Heads-up: Saajan completes 25 years next year, and the baap of all path-breaking movies, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, the year after that. Keep those hashtags ready.)

But back to Welcome Back. WB is all things nineties: sister from another mother (Shruti Haasan, to Nana Patekar); son from another father (John Abraham, to Paresh Rawal); conning jodidaars, only this time, the gender gets changed (Dimple Kapadia and newbie Ankita Srivastava); bhais/goons (Anil Kapoor – fusing roles like Loafer, Laadla, Ram Lakhan; Nana Patekar, and Abraham); right down to a visually challenged don (Naseeruddin Shah, picking up from Mohra, and pumping in the fun of Ishqiya) and a written-on-the-sets, tweet-wit story (Kapoor and Patekar discover they have another sister, Rawal uncovers his wife has another son, they decide to get them married, then not, then Naseer jumps in, with a son… Should I go on?).

But is it fun. Again, think nineties: David Dhawan directing all his favourites (Govinda, Sanjay Dutt, and to a lesser extent, well, Anil Kapoor)… in one movie. It’s that amped up. Clearly, everyone’s having fun here. It’s like they went on a three-month vacation to Dubai/Abu Dhabi, decided on the spur of the moment to do a movie there, came on the sets asking, “Toh aaj kya karna hai?” And the response was, “Aap ko kya karnaa hai?” And then, all went about their roles like pre-schoolers discovering crayon.

So, Paresh Rawal, seemingly happy to be back to comedy from netagiri, rolls his eyes, totters about exasperatedly (first half) and schemingly (second half), and even delivers an about-two-minute dialogue through a cut-out of Abraham’s head. (Told you.)

Naseeruddin Shah rolls his eyes too – although he can’t see – and rolls his guns and dialogues even more… And keeps them coming thick and fast. As his character exclaims, “Mazaak thaa, mazaak!” And then finally regains his sight, after hitting his head on a bumper. (Believe me now?)

Naseeruddin Shan in a scene from Welcome Back

Dimple Kapadia and Ankita Srivastava wear flowing and itsy-bitsy outfits respectively and switch their accents from posh (when faking a Maharani and a Rajkumari) to street (when being their true characters) to Hyderabadi (when being their real true characters).

John Abraham and Shruti Haasan, perhaps the weakest actors here (but then, they are pitched against stalwarts), sense their limitations or those of their roles and play along, happy to flare (he), simper (she), and gallivant (they).

But the movie belongs to the bhai/muh-bola-bhai jodi of Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar. They get meaty parts, and pounce on it like… bhais. Kapoor lets his eyes and facial expressions do half the acting (keep your eyes and ears on all alert for the same graveyard scene) and his clothes (like Govinda’s in the nineties, but glammed up) and glasses the other half. Nana Patekar is the perfect bromantic partner to him. Check him trying hard to keep his control in most of the movie and then losing it big-time in the graveyard scene and at the end.

Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar in their promo poster for Welcome Back

Plus, the seasoned duo are sporting enough to take a barrage of ageist jokes thrown at them. (Here’s mine: Knock, knock. > Who’s there? > Our knees.) But seriously, how old do they look – 45 and 47? Seriously too, the next Welcome – oh yes, it’s looking very strong after this, and one hopes sooner (Welcome Again?) – should concentrate even more on these two. After all, don’t we, and they, want to know: Will they ever get a girl? Or maybe not.

And if you want any more nineties’ masala, in the end, you have everyone in the middle of the desert trying to escape exploding devices, galloping camels, and a billowing sandstorm. (Clearly, the director, Anees Bazmee’s turn to play with crayons.)

Naseeruddin Shah near a chopper in a climax scene from Welcome Back

The last time I had so much fun at the movies – and heard others having too: laughing, clapping, thumping their thighs, whistling at snippets of the first part (Feroze Khan’s RDX character got the loudest) – was Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, surprise, another David Dhawan romp-in-the-amusement park.

Welcome back, Welcome Back.

Side-note:

Raja Sen’s review of the movie on Rediff stated something like, “in Shruti Haasan’s case, the acting genes (Kamal Haasan and Sarika) have cruelly missed her”. I’ve seen her in a couple of movies now (the earlier being D-Day, which gave her a better platform for performance than here), and I think he misses the point. I read his review before I watched the movie and kept a close look-out for this. And now having watched enough Kollywood (Tamil) movies too, I think I got it.

Shruti Haasan in a scene from Welcome Back

Shruti has worked more in South Indian movies (and Sen doesn’t seem to have watched too many of these), that too Tollywood (Telugu) movies, and her acting sensibilities have got moulded that way. So, she hams it up and gestures a lot more than necessary for Bollywood, but all of which is par in Tollywood, where everything needs to be supersized (these are the folk who gave us Baahubali, after all).

Shruti Haasan in several promo shots from the Telugu movie, Race Gurram

Several other non-South-Indian actresses who have made the South their base after trying their luck initially in Bollywood have gone this way too. They get entrenched and established here, then based on their success here, get a Bollywood offer or two, but don’t cut the grade. Think Shriya Saran, Asin, Kajal Agarwal, and Tamannah (the last one in all her outings). In Drishyam (the Hindi version), my parents asked me of Shriya, “She’s that Sivaji girl, right? Where’s she from? Oh, Punjab. But she’s looking completely South Indian now.” There you go.

So, I think Shruti’s just fine. And I’m not even a fan.

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