It is intriguing to observe how mediocre writers create tertiary characters. Those with a singular trait to flaunt and sans too many scenes to be a part of. In Namaste England, which is set in 2018, we hear them mouth archaic dialogues on the lines of, “London ki high society ke saath party koi bhi enjoy karega!” (Anybody will enjoy rubbing shoulders with the London elite.) This Vipul Amrutlal Shah film stems from the school of cinema which would have sounded medieval even a decade back. It is not that the film’s predecessor (not the prequel) Namastey London bred different intents. However, the said film had devices in its screenplay which could pull off all the schmaltz and hype around a British city (London). Interestingly, the glitch lies in the fact that Namaste England at the outset is not about the country or the city of London. It baffles us when it suddenly chooses to be one.
The female protagonist Jasmeet (Parineeti Chopra) is a jewellery designer who would be more than happy if her folks had let her pursue a career in the modest city of Amritsar. She marries the love of her life Param (Arjun Kapoor) but her family takes a bizarre promise wherein she would not be allowed to work post marriage because a woman’s place remains within the four walls of her home (!!!). Smart, educated and ambitious, Jasmeet knows no way out but to move to London which requires a visa. How about New Delhi, Mumbai or any other Indian metro, I thought to myself? After all, the film preaches incessantly on how India is booming in every sector and how it has carved a definite identity for itself in less than a century. The scene in question is an obvious throwback to what Akshay Kumar had aced a decade ago in Namastey London. Now, neither does Arjun Kapoor match Kumar in terms of charisma nor does the film stay rooted in what it is trying to convey. The result is a monotonous, ineffective monologue which generates no emotion, let alone patriotism. The forced ‘Vande Mataram’ background piece does not affect us either.
The primary issue with Namaste England is in the fact that it feels like two different films in either half. The initial portions involve (vividly shot and nattily styled) meet-cutes between two Punjabi youngsters, their escapades, marriage and some inevitable emotional jolts. While all of it is still badly conceptualized, Namaste England in the first half does not veer into levels of extreme disbelief. In the second hour, we see the film transform into an immigrant drama where every single character experiences an identity crisis with respect to their personal emotions, goals and interpersonal status quo. At one point, we clearly wonder what they were up to in life. They do not seem to have professions worth mentioning. Also for a large part of its run-time, Namaste England looks like behind-the-scenes footage from a Sabyasachi photoshoot. Otherwise, it is about wearing glossy western designer wear and shoes in lush laws and palatial studios which might give Karan Johar a complex. The people who inhabit these clothes, anyhow, do not seem to what they are up to either. They agree to marriage pranks on whims, spends millions of dollars in hosting the ceremony, only to open eyes to certain inevitable realities at the nth hour. Precisely, Namaste England is the kind of Bollywood film that shamelessly asserts the age-old stereotype that the industry has been plagued with. In addition, you get to see a group of swankily dressed Punjabi women and men dancing away to glory in unnaturally coloured fields.
One of the most shoddily written films of the year, Namaste England does not boast of a bunch of redeeming performances either. The characters, in unison, stem out of broad-stroked clichés wherein nuances and human shades get zilch scope to exist. Parineeti Chopra tries hard but it is hard to look beyond some of her ghastly lines, exaggerated expressions and a bizarre, problematic character trajectory. Speaking for Arjun Kapoor, the film itself reasons it in a dialogue that goes, “Actor ko apne acting pe bharosa nahi hai to main kya kar sakta hoon?” Indeed, the film cannot do much when the leading man lacks the ability to twitch a couple of necessary facial muscles which is pre-requisite in this genre of showy cinema, if not every other. The only bright spot in the otherwise lacklustre film is Mallika Dua who springs a couple of smiles in a fleeting cameo.
Vipul Amrutlal Shah, like his characters, is unaware of the film’s purpose. Clueless writing coupled with characters whose bizarre motives that will give you ulcers, Namaste England gasps and collapses by the time it reaches its tepid culmination. It is a painful sight to see Chopra re-enact what she did in the finale of Hasee Toh Phasee with full knowledge that the film is not going to be salvaged by her efforts which also includes caking herself up with unpardonable amounts of makeup. in one of the scenes, we even see her taking a walk in the local road clad in eye-popping ethnic designer couture. Insecurity or lack of choice? Only Chopra can tell us!
Rating: ★ 1/2
Author at Filmy Sasi