Priyadarshan sure must be one of the most prolific film makers in the industry, currently. More importantly, he has the uncanny knack of dabbling with different genres of cinema which include a rip-roaring comedy like Hera Pheri neatly juxtaposed against the artistic, award-winning Kancheevaram. With Khatta Meetha, he tries to multi-task, once again, slipping from social satire to comedy in order to create a light-hearted comment on India's bumbling, bribe-prone bureaucracy and unprincipled political class.
Does he succeed? Yes and no. First, the highpoints....The film boasts of three wild and whacky comedy sequences which almost bring the house down. First comes common-man contractor Akshay Kumar and goofy assistant Rajpal Yadav's attempts to clean up Asrani's house on the eve of a family function: total mayhem. Then follows mechanic Johnny Lever's attempts to repair a road roller: absolutely hilarious. And finally, a cross-conversation between Asrani, his assistant and Akshay: ekdum fundoo. Add to this, a few more snippets of fun and games, and you have an outrageous comedy track, that sadly comes in bits and pieces only.
And herein lies the tragedy of Khatta Meetha. The film is too long and has too much of high-pitched drama, leaving room for too little of the laughter circus. Now this does seem irksome, specially since the comedy bits crackle with such fun, they leave you desperately hungering for more. What's more, the drama is mostly repetitive, with the plot going on and on about small man Tichkule's futile attempts to grow big. All he wants to do is grab a big contract and make some big money so that he doesn't have to be the black sheep of his family anymore. Ironically, even the romance between the somewhat corrupt contractor and the straight-jacketed municipal commissioner comes more as an afterthought, with an awkward flashback to a hastily injected college affair that sticks out like a sore thumb. All that song dance business too seems totally unwarranted, though there is a verve in Pritam's tunes, once again.
But, there is an earnestness in Akshay Kumar's common man act, complete with umbrella and briefcase, which carries the film forward, despite its middle-of-the film lethargy and high-pitched hysteria, where most of the family members keep shrieking out their lines. Just two of the family bonds seem to work in Priyardarshan's extended family: the dad and son (Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Akshay) relationship and the brother and sister (Akshay and Urvashi) rishta. Akshay remains in character for the entire film and once again brings to life something he is adept at: the `ordinary man as hero.' He is ably assisted by Rajpal Yadav, who revisits his desi Chaplinesque act with alacrity.
Tune off a bit for the tedious middle and you could be in for some fun and frolic in Khatta Meetha, Priyadarshan's re-make of his earlier Malayalam film, Vellanakalude Nadu, where Mohanlal essayed the role of the aam aadmi.
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