Synopsis – Bollywood superstar Vijay Kumar needs to obtain a new driving license, from RTO officer, Om Prakash Agarwal, a diehard fan of Vijay. Misunderstanding leads to escalating into a feud which is played out in front of the entire country.
My Take – Yet another week, yet another remake! Just last week saw Kartik Aaryan hit the screens with his film Shehzada, the remake of Allu Arjun’s Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo (2020) and the disappointment was just as massive as the hype the film had generated. For this one, director Raj Mehta reunites with Akshay Kumar after Good Newwz (2019), and teams up with Emraan Hashmi for the remake of the Malayalam film, Driving License (2019).
Following in the footsteps of Hindi para-social dramas like Fan (2016) and An Action Hero (2022), at the center of this one is the age-old bond between movie stars and their fans, where the latter’s idol turns out nothing like they had anticipated.
Though the film has performed poorly at the box office, the one concession you can take away from the film is that it is both Akshay Kumar and Emraan Hashmi‘s best film in a while, with Akshay showing glimpses of that famous comic timing. But most importantly the film is immensely superior to the mediocre, loud and propaganda content that have been dominating his filmography recently. But while the premise is surely overstretched, the humor and performances make you overlook the feeble set up.
Much of the credit goes to director Raj Mehta and writer Rishabh Sharma, who are able to take the original and mold it perfectly to suit the sensibilities of the Hindi film audience. Other than the basic story-line, the film has also ditched the serious undertones of the original and laced the writing with a lot of humor, making it a moderate crowd pleaser that in a couple of instances is surprisingly well thought out.
The story follows Om Prakash Aggarwal (Emraan Hashmi), an RTO Inspector, who along with his son, is a massive fan of Vijay Kumar (Akshay Kumar), a Bollywood superstar veteran, much to the chagrin of his wife, Minty Aggarwal (Nushrratt Bharuccha). When it is announced that Vijay Kumar is coming to his home city of Bhopal to shoot, he is ecstatic as ever, which only escalates when he is contacted by a local corporator (Meghna Malik) to help his idol acquire a new driving license at short notice.
And all Om Prakash requests in exchange is a selfie with the actor at the station, which will also place in a position to explain himself if questions are raised about how a star’s license was expedited when the general public is put through the grind by his office.
Unknown to him, Vijay has been struggling to juggle a personal crisis with his wife, Naina (Diana Penty), along with his producer’s desperate shooting requirements, and when a misunderstanding leads to an infuriated Vijay scolding Om Prakash in front of his son and his superiors, a massive feud begins between the two, with the prime time news and the public having a field day with their juicy fight.
Here, director Raj Mehta handles the film’s first half adeptly, keeps it entertaining and breezy, and peppers it with hilarious one-liners that the actors delivers effortlessly. However, the second half, which centers on the face-off between the two heroes, is not as high on humor.
It’s watchable, nevertheless, even if the parts that revolve around the license test are a bit stretched. The cinematography seamlessly captures the larger-than-life appeal of a star and the ordinariness of the fan and the editing don’t leave any superfluous stuff hanging.
The Hindi screenplay softens the star’s arrogance, which is probably done in the service of the leading man, but also inexplicably subtracts from the manipulations that stars have to fight on a daily basis. Things look more real and relatable because of the story and narrative which is not too far-fetched and is pretty convincing.
The feud develops organically from an early misunderstanding around the former’s surrogacy plans. It flares, wildly but not implausibly, into a 24-hour media storm encompassing weaponized hashtags, cancellation cries and angry mobs. Taking an obvious dig at the trial by media phenomenon and the hash tag Boycott Bollywood movement.
The mob sequence is what I feel could have been dealt with better. Without divulging too much, it is a sequence where a strong message of not losing one’s mind while being a fan could have been given. Was this muted to appease fans? We don’t know. But the scene could definitely have been better written.
Performance wise, Akshay Kumar shines as Vijay Kumar and gets as close as you could imagine to the stardom he enjoys in real life. Bearing a charming persona and swag, he shows signs of gratitude for his fans despite being a self-made star.
It was great to watch Emraan Hashmi on the big screen again, and his turn as a super fan-turned-nemesis is equally noteworthy. He has a tight grip on his role, as he firmly maintains the middle-class and humble man act even when doing heroic things.
Unfortunately, both Nushrratt Bharuccha and Diana Penty, despite having proved their mettle in previous films, are relegated to the background mostly, underplaying their importance in the film. In other roles, Abhimanyu Singh as Vijay’s contemporary is hilarious, and Meghna Malik manages to be spot on. On the whole, ‘Selfiee’ is an easy-breezy watch, with some good performances and decent moments.
Directed – Raj Mehta
Starring – Akshay Kumar, Emraan Hashmi, Nushrratt Bharuccha
Rated – PG
Run Time – 148 minutes