Script! Script! Script! It’s true that there is a dearth of good screenplays in Bollywood, but if the most influential production house in Mumbai cannot attract the right kind of talent, it is a sad commentary on the state of the industry.
Once the staple of the stable, the Yashraj romantic comedy has seen a sad decline after the reins of production passed from the hands of papa Yash Chopra to son Adi. The heart is in the right place; devoted husband poses as young lover to win his wife’s reluctant heart ( Rab ne bana di jodi); high end escort finds acceptance and redemption after a brutal introduction to life in the big, bad city (Laaga chunari mein daag); young girl realizes her dream of playing cricket by cross-dressing and playing on the boys’ team (Dil Bole Hadippa). It is the execution that’s the problem.
From the opening moments of the movie, where the refrain of “Ik Omkar” plays against the backdrop of a pristine gurudwara, it is clear the movie is going to be a stinker. And as the movie progresses, this realization does not inure against disappointment; rather, there is a crushing sense of missed opportunity and potential, as two fine stars struggle against the weak material they have to work with.
Veera (Rani Mukherjee) is the village belle with the silver jewelry and colorful clothes who plays cricket like a dream. Rohan (a post-Kaminey buff Shahid Kapur) is the cricket champ imported by his dad (Anupam Kher) from England to create and vitalize a local team that plays an annual match against a Pakistani team from across the border. To get into the team, Veera becomes Veer and the movie culminates in a twenty-twenty cricket match against the Pakistani rivals.
Both Shahid and Rani give it their all; Rani in particular works very hard at the male impersonation and even does justice to it. But all their efforts cannot make up for the inane screenplay, empty dialogues and sub-par direction by Anuraq Singh, who seems to have absorbed all the Yashraj lessons of glamour and slickness but none of the heart. The screenplay reads like it was made by a computer program:
Religious pandering? Check!
Family strife? Check!
The dumb but sexy Other Woman? Check!
Bhangra-infused songs featuring honed bodies and suggestive moments? Check!
Cricket as a metaphor for patriotism? Pind check!
Indo-Pakistan rivalry? Check! (And it is unforgivable that they make the Pakistani team cheat at a crucial moment of the game – Pakistanis as villains is so passé)
And in the interstices between these various themes is … nothing; literally sometimes, as there are moments where there are pauses between dialogues, with the actors fidgeting with nothing to do with their hands. There are many pointless moments in the movie, which could have been left behind on the editing room floor without anyone missing them. The movie plays to the most simplistic audience, and it is not surprising that it has been roundly rejected by a majority of viewers, possibly outraged at the insult to their intelligence.
One feels sorry for the leads. They try their best, especially Rani, but she has to escape from the gilded Yashraj cage and try her hand at some indie films that give her the chance to show off her prodigious acting talents; I still remember her in Hey Ram as Kamalahaasan’s ill-fated Bengali wife. The romance between Rohan and Veera is weak, as she seems to be more bemused than anything else at his (quite inexplicable) ardor. And no, Rani does not look older than Shahid, but she does look more experienced and knowing, and not quite a good fit for the gung-ho Veera and her innocent dreams.
Give Hadippa a miss, unless you’re a masochist for formulaic Bollywood movies that lack any redeeming qualities. Even the most diehard Bollywood masala film fan will find it difficult to sit through this one.
Dil Bole Hadippa
*ring Rani Mukherjee, Shahid Kapur, Anupam Kher
Director: Anurag Singh
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 5.