Kapil Sharma’s second movie as a leading man after Kis Kisko Pyar Karoon (2015) is set in the 1920s, and mirrors the slow pace of life that probably prevailed during those years. At 160 minutes, Rajiev Dhingra’s movie is highly overstretched, and squanders its comic potential despite having a comedian as its hero.
Sharma is cast against type, and rarely appears comfortable in the role of the proverbial worm that turns. Sharma plays Mangatram, the slow-witted orderly of British officer Daniels (Edward Sonnenblick) who hopes to impress his lover Sargi (Ishita Dutta) with his position. Sargi is from the neighbouring village, which is the potential site of a liquor factory that will be set up by Daniels and the local king Inderveer (Kumud Mishra). The Britisher and the royal team up to use Mangatram to hoodwink the villagers into parting with their land. The orderly must set things right if he has to win over Sagri and her village folk.
With a tighter script, more laughs, and a stronger arc for Mangatram’s slow transformation from British lackey to pro-independence rebel, this cut-price Lagaan might even have worked. Dhingra lovingly creates Punjab of the ’20s, depicted as a happy place with inter-faith harmony and shared values, and casts a nice set of supporting actors, including Rajesh Sharma and Jameel Khan. But the filmmaker doesn’t pay as much attention to the unwieldy and uninvolving script. Sharma is barely convincing as a laggard who learns of the evil intentions of Daniels and Indraveer until it is nearly too late.
Like a dancer cast as a cripple or Amitabh Bachchan cast as a mute, Sharma flails in a role that does not capitalise on his strengths. Only a few scenes deploy his famed ability for the clever comeback and his quicksilver tongue, resulting in a performance that could have been delivered by any other actor.
Among the supporting cast, Kumud Mishra fares the best as the corrupt king who is not above forcing his daughter Shyamali (Monica Gill) to marry Daniels to line his account. American actor Edward Sonnenblick, who has mastered the art of playing the caricatured foreigner in Hindi films, brings his trademark hamming to his role. Sonnenblick is this generation’s Bob Cristo, without the innocent charm and the muscular frame, and he does not disappoint.
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