By Subhash K Jha
Ambition is not a bad thing, if applied sagaciously to a given situation. Yamla Pagla Deewna Phir Se is an ambitious comedy. To begin with, it references several of Dharmendra's evergreen songs from Gadi bula rahi hai (Dost) to the song from Pratiggya from which this serial franchise gets its title.
The problem here is not one of energy and gusto, qualities which are found in abundance in scene after scene played out by characters who seem to be energized by their presence in a film that celebrates the collective stardom of the Deol family. The problem is with the momentum. The profusion of characters often derails the drollery. For example, the Punjabis versus the Gujaratis debate could have been done less boisterously.
This time Dhamendra and his two sons are not cast in their real life roles... not entirely. Sunny and Bobby play brothers. As in Apne and Dillagi, Sunny is righteous protective patriarchal. And Bobby is wild and silly. They play against one another with affection.
Surprisingly Dharmendra is not cast as his sons's father, the legendary patriarch plays a roguish lawyer with a roving eye. There is a hilarious courtroom sequence where Dharmendra flirts outrageously with the lady judge. And when Satish Kaushik (playing the opposing lawyer) tries the same he is snubbed by the Judge.
Moral of the episode: If you are Dharmendra you can make the sleazy look cute. The same, alas, cannot be said about this stretched-out courtroom comedy which is high on vivacity and smart-alecky lines but pretty low on sustained humour. The final courtroom sequence with Shatrughan Sinha looking as impatient as we feel, which makes a complete mockery of the judiciary, is painful to sit through.
The repeated drunken monologues of Bobby Deol also get on your nerves. Bobby thinks hamming it to the hilt is equivalent to hilarity.
Unforgivably the plot casts Dharmendra in an undignified role, the kind that would suit Shakti Kapoor. The actor struggles with the roguish demands of the character and leaves all the dignified moments to Sunny Deol who, in surprising sequence, plays a rich homage to his father's immortal Satyakam.
It's a moment of reckoning when the conscientious Ayurvedic healer must sell his soul to the zeroes on a nefarious cheque for the sake of the family. Deol plays the sequence with beautiful restrain, a quality missing in the rest of the film.
How I wish the film didn't cram every nook and corner of the film with characters. Some like Kriti Kharbanda, playing a spirited girl who loves her drinks and doesn't mind a bit of moral compromise if the zeroes are right on the cheque, get a fair share of the comic pie. Others like poor Asrani barely get to be visible.
This is a sprawling comedy with its values in the right place. But it needed to exercize more self-control.