Movie Bachchan Paandey: The Comedy Of Horrors!


An out and out formulaic Bollywood movie ‘Bachchan Paandey’ has been theatrically released all over India on 18th March 2022 and then Amazon Prime Video started streaming it from 15th April. The movie’s release has been pending since December 2020 due to various reasons including the pandemic. ‘Bachchan Paandey’ is produced Sajid Nadiadwala of the famed filmmaking house of the Nadiadwala that is celebrating 70 years of filmmaking and is directed   by Farhad Samji. The film is reportedly a remake of the Tamil movie ‘Jigarthanda’ (2014) and also supposedly inspired by the South Korean flick ‘A Dirty Carnival’ (2006). The hero or the antihero or the protagonist or the antagonist, whatever you may decipher after watching the movie, of the movie is the immensely popular action-comedy hero Akshay Kumar with the female lead played by the new generation heroine Kriti Sanon. Popular comedian and character actor Arshad Warsi also plays a key role and Jacqueline Fernandez does a cameo.

 

The details of the genre shown about the movie include ‘comedy’, ‘action’ and ‘suspense’ which is rather confusing for the discerning viewers. At the very outset Bachchan Paandey played by Akshay Kumar is shown as the one-eyed brutal killer-goon-villain-or-whatever burning a journalist alive while in the process making facial distortions and caricatures of the most horridly scary kind. The casting of the superstar in this role is thus revealing. Viewers of the normal kind just cannot empathize with a menacing villain, but with Akshay playing it the expectations are set alive and kicking; because, viewers would very naturally expect a ‘justifying’ story behind as to why he is such a monster, and better late than never, the director does deliver a background story of love and betrayal that however turns out to be full of cliches and utter predictability.

 

I just cannot keep my mind away from the ‘genre’ complexities. Thinking it can probably fit in as a black comedy, I did some research by Google search and found that black comedy takes a lighter view of very serious subjects with doses of black or satiric or cynical humor. Unfortunately, we fail to find humor of any of those in the movie, unless gruesome maniacal caricatures and the ‘hero’ and his equally fitting goon-mates going often on a spree of killings while singing and dancing are considered to be humorous in India. So, I put in further efforts and discovered that the movie can somewhat fit in as black comedy of the ‘grotesque’ genre.

 

I also found a quote of Sigmund Freud in a Wikipedia page that says: Sigmond Freud in his essay on Humor (Der Humor) in 1927 puts forth the following theory of black comedy: "The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure." Perhaps this somewhat describes the character played by Akshay Kumar.

 

The poster of the film used here is also misleading, in the sense that the heroine Myra played by Kriti Sanon is not at all a gun-toting one, she is only a rebuffed budding film director who, looking for commercially viable subjects, finally sets her mind on Bachchan Paandey for a biopic. Helped, although reluctantly, her friend Vishu Kant Mhatre played by Arshad Warsi she lands in Paandey’s fiefdom of Baagwa where the law enforcers, somewhat realistic in the context of India, are impotent and unabashed slaves of Paandey.

 

Anyway, through a supposedly humorous and often ridiculous proceedings Myra finally succeeds in starting a film where Bachchan becomes the reel-hero too. However, she makes a comedy movie by capturing some off-script scenes through a hidden camera, contrary to the expectations of Bachchan and his goons that the movie would highlight Paandey’s lifetime principle of ‘fear is the key’. We are shown only bits of Myra’s film in the premiere show and are astounded by the responses of the viewers. Their LOLs and amusement would beat the great all-time comedy hits like ‘Padosan’ (1968), ‘Golmaal’ (1979) and ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ (1983). We are at a total loss as to understand why.

 

The background score and the songs in their die-hard efforts to enliven the ‘comic’ affairs are the most jarring part of the movie and they force you go fast forward if you’re watching on the streaming platforms. Of course, cinematography and other technical details are as per the Bollywood standards. As for the humor or black humor or the lack of it the immensely talented Pankaj Tripathi playing a weird kind of an acting coach makes the sincerest efforts in his limited role to ignite some laughter. Although Myra’s comedy film is supposed to have brought about a change of heart in Paandey, he kills again in brutal abandon his political Guru played by Mohan Agashe. The movie is watchable only for Akshay Kumar, Arshad Warsi and Kriti Sanon. Of course, if you’re an Akshay fan you’re sure to shriek shrill and cheer his ‘change of heart’ at the very end.


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