Manish Jha’s The Legend of Michael Mishra wants to be a picaresque romance about a legendary kidnapper’s romantic entanglements, but it plays out like an episode from Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah.
Arshad Warsi, a few kilos and wrinkles heavier, is Michael Mishra, a historysheeter who decides to go straight after falling for a delicate-skinned singer. Varsha, played by Aditi Rao Hydari with the eyelash-fluttering and open-mouthed coquettishness that has come to define her screen persona, is Jha’s idea of a Bihari woman. Her English is poor, she dreams of being a movie star, and she oozes winsomeness.
Michael Mishra is no less deluded in his confidence about his appearance. Saddled with a middle-parting haircut, a double chin and a stubble, Warsi is never convincing as the ruthless kidnapper who keeps his victims in a large cage in his den but becomes a mushy puppy after he has lain eyes son Varsha. Michael is not alone in facing trials and tribulations before finally uniting with his inamorata. At 124 minutes, The Legend of Michael Mishra demands patience and fortitude from brave-hearted viewers who might have wandered into the cinema expecting Warsi to display his usually impressive subtle touch.
The story within a story is framed by Boman Irani’s restaurateur, who seeks to impress on a group of visiting college students the importance of Michael Mishra’s epic romance. Most of the acting is loud and amateurish, with Kayoze Irani (Boman Irani’s son) heading the list of offenders with his Bihari via Dadar Parsi Colony accent and a buffoonish bluster that only the very generous will mistake for comic timing.
Jha’s first movie in nine years after Anwar (2007) also boasts of numerous song interludes and a plot that is determined to meander in all directions. The movie’s central conceit, that we tell tall tales in the name of love, doesn’t have enough meat for more than a few scenes. This legend is actually a short and not very imaginative joke.