Anees Bazmee’s Mubarakan is one rare comedy of errors that features twin brothers with the mistaken identity bit unexplored. Indeed, there is an angle towards the finale which is no big consequence in the plotline. Hence, it is a little baffling how Bazmee and the producers opted for not one, but two Arjun Kapoors to hog all frames – except ones where they need some actual emoting.
Mubarakan’s focus is on making the agreeably trite formula film that strides the usual path of Bollywood’s perennial mediocrity. The makers, well-aware of the hollow content on plate, set their story in a loud Punjabi family based in India and London. Mubarakan gives a neat glimpse of family and wedding dynamics in the community. We see Punjabi families in London dining and all except the soon-to-be-bride-with-zero-agency gulp down alcohol. Youngsters who grew up in London or Punjab speak Hindi, English and Punjabi with absolute accent-neutrality. Their only purpose in life is to romance in shopping malls (who does that?), speak rudely to unknown elders and wait for their turn to get married. How about getting a job?
Looking at character sketches, you see the protagonists are designed to look and behave differently. Arjun Kapoor’s Karan is all boisterous and Charan is meek. Karan is in love with the outgoing Sweety (Ileana D’Cruz) and Charan has hots for the fiery yet Muslim Nafisa (Neha Sharma). Things make a dramatic turnaround when destiny gets Charan engaged to the coy-and-almost-mute Binkle (Athiya Shetty, with a jawline broader than her waistline). To add to the madness, you get Anil Kapoor spewing some half-tolerable one-liners crafted along the lines of what Abbas Tyrewala did for Meghna in Jaane Tu, Ya Jaane Na. Unfortunately, with less support from his co-actors, Kapoor tires out soon.
Proving Punjabi stereotypes right, you get an Arjun Kapoor straight out of a Koffee With Karan episode. Unimaginably loud with no noticeable expressions besides looking clueless (Charan that is). Karan’s love track with Sweety is mostly justified with Ileana D’Cruz getting ample screen space and scope in the screenplay. The Charan-Binkle track, on the other hand, ends up like an extremely shallow Socha Na Tha rehash with actors who can’t twitch a single muscle on their faces. A far more engaging angle of Charan-Nafisa is cut short abruptly leaving us to question characters and their morals! Oh yes, these are serious players in a film that attempts to be comical otherwise.
Talking about the comedy bit, Mubakaran ticks most stereotypes – double entrendes on women, loud Punjabi jokes, a little too obvious wordplays, a Punjabi-speaking man Friday, and the mandatory gay joke. Although there aren’t too many SMS-level jokes that we hear in Sajid Khan films, the film fails to raise more than a chuckle or two thanks to the plot and its glaring lack of originality. Mubarakan makes for a washed down Priyadarshan comedy where characters end up explaining their acts, eventually spoiling the impact. Equally disappointing is the overtly melodramatic climax that strips off all momentum it had created till then.
Shot in Punjab and London, cinematography by Himman Dhamija is pretty neat although it gives him zero room to experiment with a very predictable setup. Music is of loo-break variety and I could actually see people exiting the hall as the songs came on screens. Certain interesting segments in the screenplay – like Charan’s tendency to speak Urdu – get completely diluted owing to absolute laziness from the dialogue department. Editing is haphazard and all over the place while the Sound Design concentrates more on decibel levels.
As for performers, it is as if director Bazmee knew the abilities of his cast members. When it comes to sequences that actually need some acting chops, we see Anil Kapoor, Ileana D’Cruz, Ratna Pathak Shah and Pavan Malhotra take charge, keeping the wooden ensemble cast (including the lead man) at bay. Kapoor is earnest and his superior effort is oh-so-visible, which makes him look strained in parts. D’Cruz is sheer delight and the actor is blessed with very good comic timing that not many of her contemporaries can boast of. Ratna Pathak Shah suffers half-baked characterization despite being consistent throughout. Pavan Malhotra is impactful as always. These four actors pull off Mubarakan‘s pedestrian climax sequence and somewhat convinces us of it. Arjun Kapoor ‘looks’ the Punjabi munda part and that’s about it. And Mr. Bazmee, why did you have to make Charan dance if he were to be projected as a coy, docile lad raised by a strict patriarch? Talking about the dance bit, poor Athiya Shetty’s plight is worth all sympathies. Poor girl wants to have all fun in a film that lets her do none of it, besides letting her mumble about four lines in the overlong film. In midst of her inactive, inert disposition to life, you also see the all-frustrated Shetty girl burst with electric moves in the Goggle Song. Split personality much!
If we look at Anees Bazmee comedies from the past, there were likeable bits in No Entry, Welcome and that’s nearly about. In his debut, Bazmee nearly succeeded in extracting some charm out of his actors, all thanks to the French Kiss plot that he borrowed from. In Mubarakan, the director makes no effort to come out of the lackluster material on papers and presents to us a very dated story on a larger, prettier canvas. Saddled with a leading man who has less flair for comedy (as is the case with other genres), Mubarakan sets pure tedium in the latter half. With a tighter screenplay, better set of actors and shorter run-time, the film could have nearly passed muster – which isn’t saying much!