Laal Singh Chaddha Review:
We’ve heard of chaddi buddies but director Advait Chandan and writer Atul Kulkarni introduce us to an entire track on chaddi-banian brothers. Making one wonder if Chaitanya Akkineni from Telugu cinema made the big jump to a Pan-Asian audience only to participate in a ‘Tu chaddi, main banian’ friendship.
There are two types of audiences.
One that will applaud Aamir Khan’s raised eyebrows-and-wide-eyed performance, the languorous pace of a feather wandering over streets and stations that comes from the original, and the Hindi cinema rhetoric of ‘no-war-only-aman’ with Pakistan. There is also the laudable doff to a sardar whose hair was cut short by his mother during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots only to proudly wear his turban years later. That was a rare balle balle moment for Aamir Khan as Laal Singh Chaddha.
There is another audience that will wonder why Aamir Khan wanted to do a repeat of his PK naivete, punctuate every para with a rather annoying hmmmm and ‘Mummy kehti thi’, and, unbelievably, hold a bogey full of passengers spellbound with his tale. Mummy is a starchy Mona Singh and the bogey includes Kamini Kaushal who is all ears at Laal Singh’s hmmmm, narration.
Those who’ve seen Tom Hanks’ 1984 film Forrest Gump will know that the story spans several decades and so there are glimpses of Operation Bluestar, the Sikh riots in the aftermath of Mrs Gandhi’s assassination, the Kargil war, Advani’s Rath Yatra, Kasab and the 26/11 attack, Anna Hazare’s movement and a passing nod to Modi on a wall.
Advait and Atul Kulkarni take the easy route to the adaptation of Forrest Gump. Did they research the Indian army recruitment procedure which is different from the desperate McNamara era when shiploads of young Americans were drafted to feed the Vietnam war? Did the research show that low IQ boys, however fast they may run, get enlisted in a jiffy? Is our army clueless about who they treat in their hospitals especially during the Kargil war? Can an injured Pak officer/terrorist be brought into and wander away from an Indian army hospital bed? A discerning audience would also ask how a wounded Pakistani officer/terrorist, picked up by the naïve Laal Singh, wanders around India with impunity, features on the cover of a magazine as a successful businessman, and flies back to his country of origin like it’s all a cakewalk.
The army portion is where Advait deviates majorly from the original and this is also where he derails. We’ve no fight with Indo-Pak amity but don’t let your enthusiasm for it drown logic and have our army and intelligence agencies come off as dummies.
There are some cute moments. Like tracing Shah Rukh Khan’s iconic pose with the outstretched arms to a young Laal Singh in Delhi. Or how Rupa banian and chaddi was born. Or references to communal riots as “malaria”.
Atheism rules, so no pooja path is a lesson Mummy taught Laal because religion gives rise to “malaria”. We’ve no fight with that either but don’t miss the calibrated religious harmony in Kulkarni’s adaptation where Pakistani Mohammedbhai (Manav Vij), south Indian Bala (Chaitanya Akkineni), turbaned Laal Singh and Rupa D’souza (Kareena Kapoor) are all woven in.
Dialogues like “Zindagi gol gappe jaisi” which are repeated score as low as Laal’s IQ and the emphasis on Punjabi further cuts out a larger audience. There are cliches like a rain and thunder setting for a ‘Roop tera mastana’ union between Rupa and Laal. Among the many question marks will be, what in the world did Kareena Kapoor, pretty as a picture, find in gangster’s moll Rupa? She’s had far more substantial roles in films like Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine and Chameli.
And so there will be two kinds of audiences. One that will sit in a pretentious multiplex seat, overlook obvious questions and applaud Laal Singh Chaddha. Another that will find it tiresome and wonder why Aamir turned the Sikh protagonist into hmmmm, a caricature.
Watch Laal Singh Chaddha Trailer: