Friday, September 4, 2015


Release date:
September 4, 2015
Anees Bazmee

Anil Kapoor, Nana Patekar, Shruti Haasan, Paresh Rawal, Dimple Kapadia, Ankita Shrivastava, John Abraham, Naseeruddin Shah, Shiney Ahuja

There is just one way to make an entertaining slapstick comedy: with these two ingredients: unabashedness in your commitment to mindlessness and actors with great timing.

Welcome Back – directed and co-written by Anees Bazmee – is silly and it knows it. And it ain’t apologising for it. It also stars some great comedians.

Thank goodness on both fronts, because the film is a hoot.

Welcome Back is a sequel to 2007’s Welcome by the same director. Truth be told, it’s a shameless reworking of the exact same template that succeeded eight years back. It could have ended up feeling like a desperate cliché but is not, because the recycling bears a self-mocking tone, the dialogues are hilarious, the leads – Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar – are in full form and the cast has been intelligently used (except for Dimple Kapadia who is wasted).

Welcome was about gangsters Uday Shetty (Nana) and Majnu (Anil) who are close friends. Both are anxious to get hitched but insist on getting Uday’s younger sister Sanjana (Katrina Kaif) married first. They fix her up with Rajiv (Akshay Kumar), the nephew of Dr Ghungroo (Paresh Rawal). Sanjana and Rajiv fall in love, unaware of their families’ plans. Also in the picture: a super-glam young woman called Ishika pretending to be in love with both Uday and Majnu, who in turn are genuinely smitten by her. Enter: the dangerous don RDX and his son Lucky.

Cut to 2015. A now reformed Uday Bhai and Majnu Bhai are trying to be respectable hoteliers in Dubai. They are still desperate to get married. Sanjana is gone but this time their marriage plans are thwarted by the discovery of another sister called Ranjana (Shruti Haasan). Unknown to them, Ranjana falls in love with Ajay/Ajju Bhai (John Abraham) who is the man they intended for her in the first place. Also in the picture: a super-glam young woman (Ankita Shrivastava) who Uday and Majnu both fall in love with; she in turn pretends to be in love with both of them. Enter: the dangerous don Wanted Bhai (Naseeruddin Shah) and his son Honey (Shiney Ahuja).

As I said, it’s the EXACT SAME TEMPLATE!!!

And though that is what makes it unmemorable, it is great fun while it lasts!

The reason, I guess, is that Anees Bazmee is wise enough to know exactly why the first film was a hit – Welcome was promoted as an Akshay film with Katrina as his romantic interest but it was, in truth, an Anil-Nana enterprise and they were to-die-for in the film. We knew already that Anil is excellent with comedy, but this was a side of Nana that Hindi audiences had not seen. Akshay and Kat were given the least to do while the spotlight remained fixed firmly on the veterans.

That’s what we get in Welcome Back too: Anil-Nana as the focal point, not John (contrary to what the poster suggests) or Shruti. It’s only fair to say though that John is evolving in comedy – in Welcome Back and 2011’s Desi Boyz, he is miles ahead of his performance in 2005’s Garam MasalaIt is also important to point out that in the universe of this franchise where women are lesser beings, newcomer Ankita was probably cast primarily for how good she looks in a bikini but she reveals a comedic gene in the limited space she gets.

Admittedly a couple of the songs in the film are unnecessary, and all the songs have ordinary tunes. Some compensation for the ordinariness comes in the form of those nuttily garish costumes and Nana’s lack of inhibitions about his really bad dancing. The special effects in the over-stretched climax are sub-par, but by then Welcome Back had cracked me up so relentlessly, that I did not care. The thing that killed me throughout the film though was Anil’s body.

Hehe, it’s not what you are thinking (though he does have an enviable waistline). What I mean is that some actors cannot even sustain an accent through the duration of a film; Anil, on the other hand, does not let up even for a second on his ridiculously sloping shoulders and gait.

The nicest thing about Welcome Back is that it is, for the most part, inoffensive. Lazy humour writers take potshots at groups in a socially weak position. Sexist jokes about women, gay jokes, jokes about persons with disabilities and (in India) jokes about dark skin are so easy to do. We all have our own Lakshman rekhas – I’m not looking for Yes Minister-level quality in a slapstick comedy, but even within the slapstick arena, for me the line is drawn at rape jokes (which I find repugnant) and the nauseatingly caricatured homosexual man of numerous Hindi films. Welcome Back features neither of the above. It does needlessly resort to one wisecrack about dark skin, but that gag is so fleeting and the rest are so innocuous, that the film marks a refreshing change from the misogynistic and homophobic clichés Bollywood comedy often delivers.

Welcome Back is a brazen ode to stupidity and though it’s forgettable, I had a good time while I watched it. I’m not sure what I liked most: the ludicrous dialogues, Nana’s terrible dancing, Paresh stealing scenes in a brief role (sadly, Naseer is just so-so) or Rajpal Yadav spoofing PK. This I can say for sure: watching Anil Kapoor in full flow is worth the price of booking an entire theatre, especially for that crazy scene in which his Majnu Bhai plays antakshari in a cemetery.

If you must do slapstick, then THIS is how it’s done.

Rating (out of five): **3/4

CBFC Rating (India):

Running time:
154 minutes 

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