Before we get into the review of this caper, let me go off at a tangent. When I read the cast, I ruminated on the following points:
Feroz and Anil last came together in the dark Feroz production Janbaaz, Anil and Nana were at loggerheads in the deadly Parinda, Anil, Akshay and Katrina featured in the dull love triangle Humko Deewana Kar Gaye and Anil and Akshay in another melodramatic exercise in drudgery Bewafaa.
So how will these teams break the mould with Welcome? Could they go to the other extreme and make us genuinely laugh and have a blast?
Then I thought of Firoz Nadiadwala, who since 2000 has only been making crime comedies (except for the gritty but unsuccessful Aan – Men At Work), never mind if they include terrible aberrations like Deewane Huye Paagal and Fool’N’Final. And director Anees Bazmee, who’s delivered a copy-that-was-better-than-the–original in both Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha and the hilarious No Entry. Will he be able to deliver in his zany style, that too with a Firoz signature too?
Even the three music director entities have collaborated in all permutations in the past, with mixed results. And while Akshay and Suniel were a part of four Base Industries’ films in a row and were missing from F’N’F, why is only one of them around this time?
And so I proceeded to watch Welcome, the latest in a long line of madcap movies (Partner, Dhamaal, Heyy Babyy, Om Shanti Om) that show that today’s audience want star-studded laugh riots unlike in the past when comedies were poor small-budget cousins with about five exceptions in 25 years!
And do you know what? Anees Bazmee, who unlike David Dhawan and Priyadarshan takes comedy seriously (as he has said often) delivers. Critically, you can sit in an ivory tower, laugh as much as the frontbenchers and the kids of all ages, and maintain your hard-boiled, easy-earned intellectual image by writing a condescending review. But the film, in totality, works – and works good.
And isn’t it ironic that I have troubled my brain so much thinking about a film that sets a trend of being advertised as a ‘leave-your-brains-behind comedy’? Why are they degrading their own films – and above all the audience? Why not face the truth and accept the axiom that Subhash Ghai believes in – that only intelligent men can make unintelligent films?
Yes, Bazmee keeps the characters and proceedings on a more or less even key, and Akshay and Katrina make for an eye-candy pair as they go through their turbulent love. Akshay is Rajiv, nephew of the immaculate Dr Ghungroo (Paresh Rawal) and Katrina is Sanjana, sister of mobsters Uday Shetty (Nana Patekar) and Majnu (Anil Kapoor).
There is no conflict of interests: both Dr Ghungroo and Uday and Majnu want law-abiding, nice spouses for their kids (so to speak). So - where’s the catch? Well, the respectable doctor is aghast when he comes to know that his bahu-to-be hails from a parivar of pistol-purveyors!
And so begins the mayhem as Rajiv and Sanjana realize that they must bring the criminals to the straight-n-narrow path before their love can lead to the saat pheras. Dr Ghungroo, completely indifferent to the mafia samdhi’s threats, isn’t exactly the mob’s terrified victim. And in any case, everyone’s reckoned without RDX (Feroz Khan) and Ishika (Mallika Sherawat) who sashays in saying that she’s Rajiv’s childhood sweetheart and yet dangles a love carrot to the two gangsters!
We have read right from the launch of the film that Welcome is based on a Hollywood caper Mickey Blue Eyes, but then Anees always has a Hollywood blueprint for his films. But what is interesting is that it also packs in a slice of another Holywood-inspired comedy Shaadi Se Pehle (a film much before its time) and shares Mallika Sherawat and Suniel Shetty (yes, Suniel is there for a fleeting cameo to keep up the superstitious ‘lucky Akki-Shetty team’ angle!).
Let’s go to the flipside. Welcome is not perfect. Writers Rajiv Kaul and Praful Parekh work at a lower level of humour than Bazmee, and we have some corny gags, erratic editing and pace in the second half that Bazmee could have bettered by being solo writer. Akshay (he’s the crowd-puller, right?) has already become repetitious as the dour-meets-comic, but this time he is tepid compared to his co-actors. Katrina’s just eye-candy, but we cannot help think that she’s got a raw deal compared to her deft turns in the past. The music is of the (h)ear-today-gone-tomorrow kind.
And now for the film’s biggest plus-es: in that order Anil-Nana and Mallika. They simply lift the film with their scene-stealing acts. Nana goes one better than his image-defying act in Bluffmaster! and Taxi No. 9-2-1-1, and as for Anil, after No Entry he once again shows his perfect sync with Bazmee. As for Mallika, Welcome lady into the second half. Her sauce and spice makes up whenever the film goes loose at places.
So what’s the nutshell verdict? Go watch the film. Leave your brains behind to read this review. But don’t look for the uniform levels of either Hera Pheri or No Entry. They are classics that will be hard to better anyway!