It begin as a farce about a bank robbery and evolves into a call for revolution against fake godmen, corrupt politicians and peddlers of extremist thought. Though Bahut Hua Sammaan doesn’t want to be described merely as a stoner comedy, for all its proclamations and provocations, it works best as one.
Ashish R Shukla, the director of the film Prague and the web series Banned and Undekhi, ably steers the anything-goes screenplay by Avinash Singh and Vijay Narayan Verma with the help of a strong and risk-taking cast. Among the key characters in the superbly performed ensemble piece are Raghav Juyal and Abhishek Chauhan as Bony and Fundoo – engineering students whose dreams of a 9-5 job are shattered by poor marks.
Self-described Marxist revolutionary Bakchod Baba (Sanjay Mishra) gives the boys a hot tip – channel your inner Clyde and Clyde and destroy capitalism by robbing the bank on the college campus. After a long and convoluted operation, the wannabe robbers finally enter the bank’s vault, only to realise that its valuables have already been stolen by a pair of crooks who have allowed themselves to be spotted by the closed-circuit cameras.
Super-cop Bobby (Nidhi Singh), who loves third-degree torture but doesn’t care for the kinky sex suggested by her desperate-to-be-a-dad husband Rajat (Namit Das), begins digging. Also walking around with a big and mean shovel is Lovely Singh (Ram Kapoor), who’s on the payroll of the politician whose secrets were stolen along with baubles from the bank.
The more, the merrier, so the actual robbers are both lovers of the dancer Sapna (Flora Saini). Also thrown into the pot is a godman who runs the Akhand Bharat cult alongside a Patanjali-type company and has links with the politician.
The dialogue is fast and profane, sometimes witty and sometimes gratuitous. Raghav Juyal and Abhishek Chauhan are excellent as the students who should never be allowed on a construction site. The rest of the cast is so deep into the film’s conceit that they mine solid comedy from jibes about a staggering range of subjects, from Akshay Kumar’s nationality to the state of Indian democracy.
It’s political, the makers will have us now. The scenes are divided by comic-book panels that chart the progress of the hapless would-be robbers. Sound effects are spelt out as words that float across the scene.
Framing the inside jokes about Uttar Pradesh, the film’s setting – Who goes to Gorakhpur to have sex? Well, there’s always a first time – is a comment on India itself. But if you miss the larger point, it’s perfectly alright. The movie’s having too much fun, not all of it as infectious as is hoped, to actually rattle the cage.