After the debacle of Tees Maar Khan, Happy New Year is director Farah Khan’s love letter to her hero and good luck charm, Shah Rukh Khan. This wouldn’t be a problem if Farah didn’t seem to be trying too hard to over-deliver with her latest release. And since this film is destined to rob unsuspecting Indians of their hard-earned money, let’s count the ways in which Happy New Year is an epic fail.
Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Happy New Year’ is an epic fail as a heist film: Here’s why
Here’s what Happy New Year really is: a three hour retrospective on every hit film in Shah Rukh Khan acting career. So, you have Shah Rukh himself mouthing dialogues from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Devdas and Don, amongst others. One scene has Padukone redoing his ‘sattar minute’ locker room speech from Chak De India. There are repeated attempts at one character or the other trying out SRK’s trademark arms-outstretched pose, and at one point, Farah has Shah Rukh reference his own appearance in Main Hoon Na.
Given all these layers of sub-context, it’s no surprise Farah forgets to stock Happy New Year with an actual story. There’s something here about a diamond heist at a Dubai hotel that Charlie (Shah Rukh) is looking to execute because he wants revenge on Charan Grover (played by an unfortunate Jackie Shroff) to settle some long-standing family feud that saw Charlie’s safe designer dad Manohar (Anupam Kher) being sent to prison despite Manohar being squeaky clean. Now, Charan is in possession of diamonds worth millions and he’s Charlie’s target. To help him out, Charlie has a crew: a Parsi pretty boy safecracker Tammy (Boman Irani), a drunkard Nandu (Abhishek Bachchan), a beefcake bomb expert Jag (Sonu Sood) and Rohan (Vivaan Shah) the hacker.
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There’s just one catch. To pull off said heist, the group has to participate in a ‘World Dance Championship’. Don’t bother asking why. The answer will just lead to a brain aneurysm. In any case, to qualify for this championship, Charlie’s boys bring in a bar dancer, Mohini (Padukone), who aspires to open a dance school of her own.
After a deleted scene where the group presumably watches Manoj Kumar’s Purab Aur Paschim and are consequently infused with unhealthy levels of patriotism, the focus of Happy New Year changes from wanting to get away with stealing diamonds to winning this rather crummy looking dance competition instead. Yayyy!
Some might say that the film is inspired from the likes of Ocean’s Eleven and Step Up, but clearly, those people have no idea what they are talking about. Happy New Year is a heist film like no other. For one, when was the last time you saw a heist film in which the heist is the least important detail in the film?
More importantly, everyone and their brother know about the rigorous training regimen undertaken by Shah Rukh to get into the shape of a six/eight/ten-pack sporting hourglass for the film. What you may not know, though, is that after years of accolades for his expressive skills, in Happy New Year, Shah Rukh manages to emote entirely through his abs. Why else would he show a Salman Khan like penchant for going shirtless in every other scene here?
The rest of the cast — barring Sood and Padukone — doesn’t have abs to flaunt and thus rely on run-of-the-mill regular acting to get by. Irani as Tammy comes up with a portrayal of Parsis that is so bad that we should safely see him excommunicated from the community soon. Sood plays an ex-army type who is half deaf and has Norman Bates-levels of devotion to his mother, flying into a murderous rage if anyone even mentions her. Shah plays a hacker who doesn’t require anything more than a tablet and a hoodie to hack into everything from DJ consoles to military grade security systems. Given enough time, he could probably use your washing machine to hack your fridge into doing the dishes.
Happy New Year is a return of sorts for Abhishek Bachchan, who plays a double role here. On one hand is his sensitive portrayal of Nandu Bhide, a streetsmart drunkard, who suffers from a terrible unnamed condition which causes him to retch and vomit without warning at any given moment. On the other hand, he also plays Charan Grover’s son, Vicky, who is essentially just a schmuck with blue contact lenses. Bachchan plays both roles equally well and makes you forget that these are just characters that he’s playing and not the real him. It all comes so naturally to him.
Padukone as Mohini the bar dancer (get the Tezaab reference?) sports another terrible accent here, trying to go Marathi and inadvertently slipping into Gujarati ever so often. Much more than just eye candy, Mohini’s role is mainly as a punching bag for Charlie, who frequently insults her in the vilest terms possible, only to sweet talk her back into staying a bit longer. Three cheers for women’s empowerment, clearly.
Being a Farah Khan film, Happy New Year cannot be complete without a dig at the LGBT community. Here, this takes the form of Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Dadlani, who play a pair of judges in the World Dance Championship. They are blackmailed by Charlie who has somehow got hold of a video that exposes the romantic threesome between Kashyap, Dadlani and feather boas. The judges make sure Charlie’s Team India qualifies for the championship in exchange for Charlie not leaking their sex tape on YouTube. One hopes Farah really possesses something real along those lines on Kashyap and Dadlani, because otherwise the only explanation for their presence in this movie is that their moral centre has dropped off the radar.
Happy New Year could have been a great heist movie. It could even have been a fair slapstick comedy. As it stands now, the combination just produces slapdash nonsense. If this is Farah’s love letter to Shah Rukh, one imagines this romance might not last that long. Or maybe, like Mohini, all Shah Rukh needs to hear from Farah are sweet nothings and from his audiences, ka-ching.
Nandan Kini is a documentary film researcher and journalist based in Mumbai. Also the national president of the Association of the Sartorially Challenged, he tweets at @bombilfry and has booked his face at Facebook.com/nandan.kini.