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Bachchhan Paandey is a problematic gangster comedy

The six screenwriters of Bachchhan Paandey are united in their belief that the 2017 Tamil blockbuster Jigarthanda is worth a stab (and a gunshot) at a rollicking remake. But this one just breaks your heart

If I were a Bachchan (with or without an extra ‘h’) or a Paandey (give or take an extra ‘a’) I would be exceedingly insulted by this ‘gangster comedy’, to coin a new name for a genre that thinks gore and giggles are blood brothers, and that a hero with a glass eye who proudly says he loves to kill, is the height of hilarity.

But then for any individual or community to feel affronted by this insanely iconoclastic ode to the cult of gangsterism, would be an over-reaction. Bachchhan Paandey (BP) insults any and every species of mankind, from stammerers to spitters. From Smita Patil to Marlon Brando (the Brando jokes shows much later in the plot when the audience has stopped listening).

Sanjay Mishra, who seems to have fallen on bad days, plays Akshay ‘BP’ Kumar’s third or fourth sidekick (depending on which side you are counting from). His speech deficiency is supposedly a huge source of amusement for the scriptwriters, of which there are 6 in the credit titles including producer Sajid Nadiadwala, who by the way also makes a guest appearance at the end: a versatile talent if ever there was one.

The six screenwriters also seem to think people spitting one one another is funny. At one point in the narrative’s meandering course, a multi-coarse meal indeed, everyone is seen spitting on everyone: Kriti on Arshad, Akshay on Pankaj Tripathi, who has the thankless role of being BP’s Gujarati acting coach with a Gujju accent that falls off faster than Akshay Kumar’s makeup to look like a scruffy unbathed gangster.

The brains behind the film have no idea of continuity sheets. The colour of Akshay BP’s teeth for example keeps changing from decalcified white to a coal-stained toothpaste-free dark. BP is also seen with perfectly manicured finger nails, to match Kriti Sanon’s boutique of ever-changing bright-coloured nail varnish in a township where there are no saloons or parlours, just lingering shades of long-legged lawlessness, parked in the basement of brainlessness.

Akshay Kumar’s portrait of a Wild Wild West hero(?) owes more to Allu Arjun’s Pushpa ( at one point Akshay even tries to establish his own signature dance step but gives up) than to Jigarthanda. The actor is in serious need of an emotion-control coach and no, Pankaj Tripathi’s buffoonish acting teacher won’t do.

Whether this criminally subverted crime-comedy is actually related to Jigarthanda or not is debatable. I bring up this minor detail, as the entire idea of filmmaker Kriti Sanon and her sidekick Arshad Warsi setting off to make a film on a dreaded criminal is ripped from a South Korean film called A Dirty Carnival.

So to subvert a Beatles song, all these loony people where do they all belong? A veteran like Mohan Agashe plays a comatose who is bumped off the minute he regain consciousness thereby sparing himself the ordeal of actively participating in the perverse prance of parodic violence that this film revels in.

Poor Seema Biswas who once was a warrior, has no dialogues until the very end when she melts down in ‘beta’ Akshay Kumar’s arms. By then the audience is so bewildered by the goings-on it just wants to flee through the firescape instead slipping in the puddle of blood and tears.

And why insult the memory of Smita Patil by giving her son Prateik Babbar the role of Akshay’s fifth (or is it sixth?) sidekick, and naming his wife Smita: that’s crass insult-to-injury situation. There are many problems with the intended humour of Bachchhan Paandey. But the biggest of them all is a glass-eyed “hero” who thinks it’s funny to kill people not realising that the death of good taste and edifying aesthetics is a bigger tragedy than the loss of human life in the hierarchy of love life and crime in cinema.

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