It’s a rare instance when the remake is crisper than the original. Director Raj Mehta and writer Rishhab Sharrma do away with unnecessary tracks of the goonda-politician that dragged the Malayalam comedy Driving License and linger on the interplay between superstar Vijay Kumar (Akshay Kumar) and RTO Inspector Om Prakash Agarwal (Emraan Hashmi). They also keep the fan hysteria to the minimum since the fan club craze is not as prevalent in the Hindi film industry as it is in the south.
There is freshness in the premise of unresolved misunderstandings escalating tensions between two well-intentioned men and turning into a full-blown issue. Raj Mehta’s trademark style of a sense of fun is omnipresent as he tells the story of a superstar who requires a new driving license but unwittingly humiliates the RTO Inspector in front of his school-going son.
Vijay Kumar was the actor Inspector Agarwal hero-worshipped. But dad is the hero for Agarwal’s son. And Vijay has done the unpardonable. One moment of misunderstanding is all it takes for the father to stand up to the superstar, the small matter of a driving license becoming a prestige issue and the standoff turning into a battle between a celebrity and a commoner.
The one-upmanship and the attempts by Agarwal to stonewall Vijay Kumar are made interesting with twitch-perfect performances by Akshay Kumar and Emraan who stand up to each other without giving an inch away. Meghna Malik as corporator Vimla Tiwari, Nushrratt Bharuccha as Agarwal’s wife, Diana Penty as Vijay Kumar’s wife, Adah Sharma as a co-star and Abhimanyu Singh as a rival actor out to bring down Vijay Kumar, make an efficient crew of supporting artistes.
While all this sounds good, there are niggling questions beginning with the premise itself. Why would a superstar not get a driving license from Mumbai right away instead of hanging on in Bhopal until it becomes an ego issue? Vijay Kumar’s resolve to get his license from that same Inspector comes into play only after a while.
In today’s India where it’s all online and the fee paid acts like a license until the new one arrives, the reasons for a superstar not to get his driving license are too flimsy.
The burgeoning of the tussle into a great divide is exaggerated, especially when the Inspector’s superiors are not on his side. Which lowly Inspector would be able to overrule his superiors? Scenes like schoolkids pouring water over Agarwal’s son stretch the already overdone rivalry between those rooting for the star and those who support the Inspector.
The music is hardly worth humming and kicks off on a tuneless note with something about ‘Vibe’ and the timeworn ‘Kudi’ in the opening credits.
For the film industry, exposing the shallowness of #BoycottBollywood hashtags may be a serious pursuit. But when the Hindi film industry isn’t exactly riding a popularity wave, will the audience find it as humorous as insiders do? Does the Hindi film industry have waves of hysterical fans like the south has? Most of all, will word of mouth reviews work to make the lack of logic vanish and bring in the audience? Your guess is as good as mine since Selfiee has started off on a cold note at the box-office.
Meanwhile, two little observations. What’s with Raj Mehta and wives getting pregnant? This is the third film after Good Newwz and Jugjugg Jeeyo where Mehta weaves infertility into the story.
Also, like all filmmakers who tiresomely turn TV news channels into moments of mirth, Mehta succumbs to the pattern, little realising that their giggle-fetching caricature makes Arnab Goswami more of an icon than he already is.
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