Synopsis – The film is a sequel to Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016).
My Take – When released two years ago, without much fanfare, popular writer turned director Mudassar Aziz‘s film ‘Happy Bhag Jayegi’, a comedy of errors involving a runaway bride who lands up in Pakistan, came as a fresh surprise to everyone. Anchored by its fun plot and some winning performances, the film went on to become a sleeper hit, after running for close to two months in Indian theaters. Playing a major factor in the film’s success was the charming innocence of the key characters, as director Mudassar Aziz had created a parallel world where even the most cynical characters appeared funny. They didn’t know what was happening, yet they whole-heartedly participated in it.
While most of the cast returns for the sequel, sans Abhay Deol, here, director Mudassar Aziz has upped the scale by bringing in some fresh additions to the cast in the form of Sonakshi Sinha and Jassi Gill, a new story line in a different country yet layered with enough nuances and substances, and some fine moments that will make you laugh hard. While in the original, Diana Penty as the lively, determined and bubbly girl, Harpreet Kaur aka Happy who would do anything for love, was the surprise package. In this edition we have her namesake in Sonakshi Sinha who keeps the fizz going when she is kidnapped in Shanghai in a case of mistaken identity.
However, it should be kept in mind that this is one of those sequels that are unabashedly bigger, though not necessarily better in every way, as what finally wears down this rather snappy comedy caper is its interminable length along with some flaws here and there. But thankfully the entertainment quotient remains, as it was in the case of the film too, it has more to do with this talented man called Jimmy Sheirgill, who keeps getting better with every film he is in.
Taking place sometime after the events of the first film, the story follows Harpreet Kaur aka Happy (Sonakshi Sinha), an Amritsar-born Horticulture professor who lands in China after getting appointed at a Shanghai college. Unknown to her, her namesake Happy (Diana Penty), who is now happily married to her beloved Guddu (Ali Fazal), a singer, has also landed at the same airport, for a concert for the latter to perform. Little do they know that the concert is a ploy by a group of nefarious Chinese goons led by Chang (Jason Tham), who plan to use Happy to pressurize Bilal Saeed (Abhay Deol, who doesn’t star in this film), who is now an influential politician in Pakistan, to kick off some Chinese construction project that he’s been dragging his feet on.
In a twist of fate, Chang’s incompetent subordinates end up picking the wrong Happy. As she goes on a rant that she has no clue who Bilal or Guddu is and how his men have picked up the wrong person, Chang sends his minions across both borders for the double abduction of Happy’s former admirer Daman Singh Bagga (Jimmy Sheirgill), a rowdy corporater with political ambitions from Punjab and Usman Afridi (Piyush Mishra), a recently retired police officer from Lahore, Pakistan who is close to Bilal and his family, in order to find the Happy they know and recognize.
However Happy runs away from her abductors, minus cash and passport, and bumps into Khushwant Singh Gill aka Khushi (Jassi Gill), a good hearted employee of the Indian Embassy, who despite running on low self-esteem, agrees to help her sort everything out. But Happy seems to be having a hidden agenda for being in China and it is up to Khushi, Bagga and Usman to help her out, and find out where the real Happy is, while creating mayhem everywhere they go.
In one sentence, the sequel seems to be more chaotic than the previous one that happens to be a comedy rooted one with chaos that had worked between the two nations – India and Pakistan. This time, however, the makers have added one more country – China. Nevertheless, keeping in mind that the one-point agenda here is to make us smile, chuckle and laugh, the menu should be just right, and here, it mostly is. There is faithful adherence to the canon: with a chase, a mad ride in a vehicle and the anxious father turning up in a foreign country, all cues taken from its predecessor.
The bigger canvas and addition of new actors add value to the film, while the fun quotient in comparison has been diluted, it doesn’t mean that film is not able to entertain you at all. Especially considering the fact the best thing about both the films is that the women are in charge, with the men playing second fiddle to them, as both the Happy named girls are spunky and know how to take care of themselves, without relying on the men to rescue them from a sticky situation.
Build on a hilarious screenplay, the film is a treat to watch as never for once does the film resort to anything that does not fit the essence of the setting. Every scene adds up and more importantly entertains. For instance- Daman Singh Bagga’s romantic urges and his sad story revolving around his marriage, or even a moment where Happy runs holding Bagga’s hand and you hear romantic tunes playing. Some of the sequences are so spontaneous that it is difficult to figure out whether it is all written and rehearsed or did things just happen on the sets and the director decided to keep it.
The dialogues by Mudassar Aziz are among the main reasons for which this film will work. Packed with a punch as he plays with words, in Hindi, Urdu and smattering of Chinese this time. For example, Khushwant’s Bronze dig managed to bring the house down almost as much as Usman’s trenchant digs at his own country, his compliments to China and his remarks on Indo-Pak issues.
In one of the film’s hilarious scenes, the lovable Usman Afridi asks Bagga, “Desh toh azaad ho gaya, lekin Kashmir ka kya karein?” It comes across as a simple line that but when seen in context to the real-life bilateral ties, a Pakistani asking that question to an Indian speaks volumes of how delightfully layered this film is in its humor. The film has multiple such lines that allow us to laugh at how funny the complex can be. What really adds sparkle to the group is the return of thug-politician Daman Singh Bagga and Usman Afridi from the first film. The two carry on from where they had left off, with their India-Pakistan bashing being the main highlight of the film.
Nearly every scene featuring these two going at each other will bring a smile to your face, if not make you go ROFLing. Jimmy and Piyush continue to capitalize on their frenemy camaraderie and it is a delight to see them work hard to make us laugh. Scenes like Bagga and Usman’s encounter with the Chinese mob, as well as Bagga’ frequent references to his ruined wedding and later competing with Khushi for Happy’s affections provide many laughs. There are some smart jokes too. Like when Sonakshi’s Happy runs away from the goons and gets a ride from a Chinese man only because she’s from the land of Dangal, a nod to the humongous business the Aamir Khan film has done in China.
The spine of any comedy relies a lot on its ineffective, zany villains, and the film has its fair share of them. Its delight watching actor Denzil Smith play a suave and erudite businessman with a penchant for teaching the Chinese how to make a biryani, not just their sticky rice, and dance steps to a Bhangra, in his down time. While the plot twists in this mad caper are predictable, what finally wears down this comedy is its interminable, long-winded length. At its 136-minute running time, it gets tedious and your interest tends to wane with all the random mix-ups that are thrown your way.
While it’s refreshing to see a loose structure in a comedy, some of the twists seem painfully needless. A chase sequence near the mid-point at an adult-market involves an intoxicated Usman trying to get cosy with every sex-worker he meets, while the others run for their lives. We might guiltily laugh at the first time it happens but then it goes on and on losing the little bit of humor the idea had in the first place.
And just like the first film, there is a pointless motor chase sequence here too. It didn’t work the first time around, so I am not sure why the writers would want to include it here. Also the number of racist jokes (you know, the one about how all East Asian people look alike) could have been brought down considerably. But more than the patchy humor, what this film really misses out on is the right mix of emotion and heart, which the earlier film had in its advantage. The subversive love quadrangle in the 2016 film was well-done. However, in the sequel, Sonakshi‘s Happy seeking a runaway fiancé angle isn’t that engaging enough. More importantly, the absence of Abhay Deol as Nawaab Junior is highly missed. However credit has to be given where its due, as the film maintains the momentum and the fun level mainly due to its excellent cast.
None of the actor ever slip out of character, and nail each and every dialogue with conviction and adds to the delight. Sonakshi Sinha makes you believe she’s perfectly cast in this role. Not only is her comic timing great, even her body language, her persona and her ability to control the plot is commendable. Both Diana Penty and Ali Fazal even in their brief screen time leave their lasting impression. In fact whenever Diana comes on screen, the frame becomes grand, for you know she ruled the screen in the first installment. It’s a delight to watch the original Happy putting her running shoes again in the climax. Debutante Jassi Gill surprises big time! He shares few of very hilarious scenes and leaves his mark. Aparshakti Khurrana once again comes in as a delightful surprise and has a meaty role.
However as I mentioned above, the film belongs to Jimmy Shergill, who is totally in a zone where he knows no one can touch him. Maintaining a proper mixture of swag, charm & amuse, he’s too funny for words. Along with him, Piyush Mishra picks up the humor to a whole new level. Every time when he appears on screen, he literally lights it up! Their on-screen chemistry is palpable and they keep you in splits with their poker face but funny banter. Jason Tham, the former Just Dance contestant, is also excellent here as the Hindi speaking Chinese mobster; the youngster is excellent in both humorous and action scenes. While Denzil Smith, Jeeveshu Ahluwalia and Sarah Hashmi bring in a superb turn. On the whole, ‘Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi’ is a light-hearted watch which despite missing the spark of its predecessor still manages to be a laugh riot backed by strong performances.
Directed – Mudassar Aziz
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 136 minutes