‘Bangistan’: Just a whimper

MUMBAI: When a comedy is attempted in Hindi films, one is very sceptical, since we don’t have decent writers in general, let alone humour writers. And, in a scenario where there are no writers for comedy, the inspiration needs to come from other sources, a la foreign films. 

Bangistan has been ‘inspired’ by a British film titled Four Lions, a crisp comedy about four UK-based wannabe jihadists.

The land of Bangistan is divided into two parts, North and South, representing Muslim and Hindu dominance, respectively. While Riteish Deshmukh belongs to a jihadi family in North, sports a longish beard and does his worshipping as required, he is also educated and works for a call centre using an English pseudonym. However, when one client calls finds out he is actually a Muslim, he abuses and calls him a terrorist. Riteish is disheartened and gives up his job. 

Pulkit Samrat represents South Bangistan. He is a staunch devotee of a religious head-cum-political leader who heads a party called Maa Ka Dal. Elections are round the corner and this guru-cum-politico needs some riots, which are not happening thanks to a Hindu and a Muslim religious head, Shiv Subramaniyam and Tom Alter, who preach harmony and peace. 

There is an international peace conference, which is due to be held in Krakow, Poland, where religious heads of all sorts will gather (there are 4200 religions in the world, it seems). The jihadis and South Bangistan guru-politician may have different ideologies but in this case they think alike. Both want to bomb the conference through suicide bombers. One can’t figure out how a bombing in distant Poland will help a local, small-time politician win an election nor as to how it will help a nondescript jihadi family. And neither side wants to claim credit since the jihadis sends their volunteer as a Hindu while the guru- politician sends his man as a Muslim to blame the incident on Muslims. 

The Muslim candidate in the guise of a Hindu is Riteish while the Hindu posing as a Muslim is Pulkit. Both end up at the same Polish airport at the same time. While Pulkit is a freewheeling guy, Riteish, though feigning to be a Hindu is a hard-core Muslim at heart. When he sees Muslims, including Pulkit, being taken away from the immigration queue for a thorough search, Riteish reacts as to why only Muslims are considered terrorists. This stand of his continues through the film. 

Both check-in to a same accommodation, which is supposed to be the cheapest in town at 200 Zloty. Their rooms are separated only by a ceiling with a huge hole. Both have already become friends at the airport (which is the undoing of this film among many other things). As the film progresses, the two bond like childhood friends instead of playing a game of one-upmanship a la Spy vs. Spy (famous MAD magazine strip).

The rest is not worth telling as the film goes from banal to juvenile. The original, Four Lions was a mere 97 minute while this one stretches to 124 minutes for no reason! 

The scripting is immature and direction complies (the director, Karan Anshuman, is a former film critic). There is no help from songs and only one song shows money spent with a group of dancers. Dialogue is mediocre. So are editing and background score. 

While Riteish underplays, Pulkit shines. Jacqueline Fernandez gets about two and half scenes and a song.

Bangistan is a mess of a film with no hope at the box office. 

Producers: Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani

Director: Karan Anshuman

Cast: Riteish Deshmukh, Pulkit Samrat, Jacqueline Fernandez, Zachary Coffin, Shiv Subramaniyam, Tom Alter, Arya Babbar

‘Jaanisaar’: Lifeless

In his career spanning almost four decades as a filmmaker, Muzaffar Ali has attempted a total of seven films and has four released films to his credit. His debut with Gaman was impressive and the film that earned him laurels was Umrao Jaan. Both boasted of immortal music in lyric and songs. Ali tried to take up a social cause with Aagman, a film about exploitation of UP sugarcane farmers of Awadh, which did not quite work. Umrao Jaan was about that region and now, Ali’s latest, Jaanisaar is also about Awadh. 

The story goes back to what is now called the first war of independence, in 1857. Among those killed by the British in this war were the mother and father of Imran Abbas. The British and Queen Victoria select Abbas to train him, educate him in Britain to make his a pucca sahib so he does not become another rebel leader like his father! 

Abbas is now grown up and back in India with a British mindset, to the extent that he even thinks his father was a traitor and served his British masters. He has been brainwashed. He has no issues with that since he plans to do the same. Abbas’s maternal grandfather, Dalip Tahil is taking care of the state while he is away. When he realises that Abbas is totally angrez, he decides to instill some local language and culture in him. To this end, he sends him to a kotha run by Beena Kak where Abbas falls in love with one of the dancers, Pernia Qureshi. It seems to be a norm in Ali’s films, if not in Awadh, for royals to fall in love with tawaifs. Pernia falls in love too without any preamble.

While, Abbas and Pernia are busy romancing, the shots are called by the local British agent, Carl Wharton, who treats his wife like dirt and the only way he enjoys his sex is through sadomachism, his imagination being limited to almost strangling his wife in the process. She in turn, enjoys leering at Indian royals. Carl, the sadist, loves to kill people and collect his victims’ finger as a souvenir. This has nothing to do with the main plot except to suggest how bad the British were to no effect.

Abbas’ grand father plots to separate Abbas and Pernia. Some futile emotional scenes follow and both are back together again after Abbas finds her in the care of Muzzafar Ali, who is also a rebel and colleague of his father in the war of independence and a mentor of Pernia, who has been training in some sort of lathi wielding. Ali, Abbas and Pernia decide to take the war to Carl’s door through, which they think they will destroy the British Raj.

The climax ends in a Wild West sequence where Carl is riding on a train when the duo and Ali along with his gang decide to ambush him. 

As far as story, script, direction are concerned, this film is a total let down. Even a newspaper report would be more interesting than this 124-minute torturous saga. If music was the heart and soul of Gaman (Jaidev) and Umrao Jaan (Khayyam), here Ali takes it upon himself to compose songs, and it is just another drawback. In nutshell, there is nothing working for this film.

There is nothing to performances as well since they are all bad, except, to an extent, Kak, who makes an effort. Most don’t even fit the roles assigned. 

Jaanisaar is poor in all respects and will find it hard to attract the audience.

Producer: Meera Ali

Director: Muzaffar Ali

Cast: Imraan Abbas, Pernia Qureshi, Dalip Tahil, Carl Wharton, Beena Kak, Muzaffar Ali

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