Friday, January 2, 2015

Movie Review: Happy Ending

It’s getting tiresome to see Saif Ali Khan constantly playing the rich, phoren-based manchild womanizer, afraid of commitment and destined to find The One who will make him want to give up his playboy lifestyle for Love. Since he did once play Langda Tyagi in Omkara, we know he has range, but the allure of cash appears to be stronger than the will to make a good movie. Filmmakers Krish DK and Raj Nidimoru have made some decent films in the past. Flavours was an interesting indie and 99 was a very entertaining cricket-based comedy thriller. Shor and Go Goa Gone both had merits. With Happy Ending, they fall victim to the siren song of a rom-com set in foreign lands, and the results are rather disappointing.

The film has a promising beginning. Yudi (Khan) is a party monster, riding on the success of his one bestselling book. Six years after its publication, he gets a kick in the gut when his fanbase dwindles and the world focuses its attention towards a new, hotshot, romance writer Aanchal (Ileana D’Cruz). Naturally, Yudi hates Aanchal, and of course, he ends up falling in love with her. The reason why this clichéd story seems promising in the beginning is that the filmmakers execute it with self-awareness. There is a film within a film being made, where the situation the lead actors face is satirized. There is Govinda as Armaan, a super rich bloke who wants to be a Bollywood star and hates the prospect of the struggle necessary to make something original. Aanchal admits to being a fraud, having no interest in love and profiting from stupid, lovelorn readers. The relationship between Yudi and Aanchal is presented as script beats, charting out the various chapters in the process of falling in love. There is also a duplicate of Yudi – a fat, scrappy slacker named Yogi – and the interaction between the two is reminiscent of Nicholas Cage in Adaptation.

Sadly, Happy Ending doesn’t utilize the self-awareness into anything substantial. In fact, it cheats you. The film dances around the clichés of the rom com genre, pretending to satirize them but just ends up falling into the trapdoor of the same clichés it targets. It’s frustrating, to say the least. At times the film is completely in your face - Saif’s character breaks the fourth wall and talks about the conundrum of commitments, with the poster of a Katherine Heigl movie in the frame.

Happy Ending’s real problem is that it’s very boring. There is zero chemistry between Khan and D’Cruz and the moments they share are neither funny nor passionate. They’re just cringe inducing. Moreover, Aanchal is supposed to be the girl who changes a shameless, philandering, unscrupulous Casanova into a lovey dovey puppy dog begging for commitment – there is nothing about her that justifies such a change in Yudi. Whatever Yudi and Aanchal share is just as cold and mechanical as Yudi’s past and their attempts at comedy all fall painfully flat.

The only bright spots in the film are Kalki Koechlin, who plays a hilariously kooky girl Yudi is trying to get rid of, and Govinda, with six pack abs and many more packs in his funny bone. Like in last week’s Kill/Dil, he’s the best thing about the movie and just like in that movie, he’s criminally under-utilized in Happy Ending. It’s about time Govinda got his own film again. He’d kill it in a well written satire. Ranvir Shorey is fun as well, playing a hapless husband who is desperate to hang out with his buddy and get drunk, but forced to be a family man. You wish the film had been about the friendship between the characters of Shorey and Govinda because they’re so far above the mediocre material surrounding them.

Ultimately, Happy Ending feels quite pointless – we’re never sure what the story of Yudi and Aanchal is meant to signify. Are we supposed to believe in the power of love? Does love always render a happy ending? Is the guy supposed to go to the airport when the girl leaves, even though they’re clearly mismatched and don’t believe in commitment? Happy Ending doesn’t know what to do or say. It isn’t even sure whether it’s trying to be a feelgood comedy or an exercise in clichés. Hopefully, it’s just a one-off for Nidimoru and DK because they’re capable of much better.

(First published in Firstpost)

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