Happy Phir Bhag Jayegi
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Jimmy Shergill, Jassie Gill, Diana Penty
Director: Mudassar Aziz
Many a head will turn if you yell “Happy” at an Amritsar wedding. It is the kind of name Punjabis affectionately bestow on man, woman and Alsatian alike. For some reason, Daman Singh Bagga, played by Jimmy Shergill, finds himself drawn to girls with that name. He was smitten by one in Mudassar Aziz’s Happy Bhag Jayegi, and once again in this sequel, Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi, he finds himself in a haphazard pursuit of Happy-ness.
Watch the Happy Phir Bhaag Jayegi trailer here
The first film starred Diana Penty as runaway bride Happy, trying gratingly hard at being a Parineeti Chopra type, alongside Abhay Deol grappling clumsily with broad comedy. In the new film, Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi, Sonakshi Sinha plays a different Happy, a girl so given to scowling that her parents clearly got it wrong. So did the film’s makers. The original was surprisingly fizzy, a film where the plot made little sense and the protagonists were duds, and yet there were giggles to be had. The sequel has an even more ridiculous plot, a tedious heroine and — this is the crucial bit — not enough gags. It runs out of steam long before the finish line.
The plot involves kidnapped girls, kidnapped policemen and kidnapped Punjabi businessmen who like wearing outrageously flamboyant hoodies. This wholesale kidnapping comes courtesy of Chinese gangsters, which is why the wild goose chase is set in Shanghai this time. Sinha’s Happy is an academician (a horticulturist, if you will) who has come to China for the first time and been immediately kidnapped, mistaken for the other Happy. Chang, a well-heeled Chinese gangster who speaks in fluent Hindi, has his hands full with her and his other hostages: Pakistani policeman Usman Afridi, whisked away on the day of his retirement, and our friend Bagga who was kidnapped — as he never tires of reminding anyone within earshot — not only on the day of his wedding, but after he had already mounted his shaadi steed.
Sinha looks confused from the start, walking out of an airport open-mouthed and staying that way till the credits drop, occasionally taking the time to harrumph. The film’s hero is a mild-mannered fellow who sings Sunny Deol songs at open mic events, and while the character is pleasant, he is played by pop-star Jassi Gill, a performer so unremarkable I have already forgotten him.
Sonakshi Sinha, Jassie Gill, Jimmy Shergill and Piyush Mishra in a still from Happy Phir Bhaag Jayegi.
This is the kind of movie where joining the dots is futile. There is some nonsense about a villain motivated by a China-Pakistan government contract, and none of it adds up, which would be acceptable if the film was funny, and if it didn’t devolve into a shouty mess at the end. The last 40 minutes — which feature a concert for no apparent reason but to allow Piyush Mishra to dress as Batman — are plain exhausting.
Much like Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar in the inane Welcome franchise, these movies belong to Shergill and Mishra. Here is Mishra in a dodo-covered shirt, calling Denzel Smith ‘Kaancha Cheena’ because he thinks he looks like Danny Dengzongpa. Here is Shergill, breaking into his sickeningly-coy Mohabbatein smile while being led by the hand during a chase sequence. Mishra, a policeman, finds himself sorely envious of the infrastructure in Chinese prisons. Shergill, on encountering a man named Fa, brings down the house by calling it a soapy kind of name. These two elevate the material at every turn, but it is never a good sign when a comedy needs comic relief.
At one point, when a Chinese man is told someone is from India, his response is “Dangal? Dangal?” It’s a smartly opportunistic joke given the popularity of that film in China, and Aziz gives us enough asides to demonstrate his potential to make something genuinely clever. All the Indians in China stick to the questionable safety of cup-noodles, a villain teaches the Chinese to cheer for poetry and applaud cricketing shots, and in a delicious subversion of the way Hindi films used to throw baddies into vegetable-carts during fight scenes, here someone is hastily shoved into a kiosk of dreamcatchers.
Unfortunately, Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi relies too hard on obvious attempts at humour at the expense of the Chinese characters — from their names conveniently made to sound like expletives, to the way Indian characters can’t tell them apart. This is lazy, juvenile and unnecessary. Inadvertent as it may be, the best joke is on us. It is when Chinese men, looking into a passport and then at a person across a table, mistake Sonakshi Sinha for Diana Penty. It isn’t their fault, you see. We all look alike.