Masala entertainment movie making lesson number 1: if you cast Shah Rukh Khan in your movie, it will eventually make money, no matter how stupid, tiresome and humorless it is. Case number 157: Happy New Year, aka the new Farah Khan Vanity Project for the lowest of the lowest common denominator audience.
There are hundreds of ways in which a movie could disinterest you, although few films come as close to scaling the peak of boredom as Happy New Year does. This is a film that exists for no other reason but to parade the astonishing star power of its hero to the aam janta. Intelligence and quality don’t matter. Sure, there have been worse desi films this year, but none have treated its audience in such a casually dismissive fashion. The movie looks and feels like a home video project that was intended for appreciation by precisely two people in the entire universe - Farah and Shah Rukh Khan.
I was about an hour into Happy New Year before I started wondering what the heck it was about. It seemed to be about Charlie (SRK) planning a heist against a magnate (Jackie Shroff) with his friends to avenge his dead dad. But then, for some reason, they participate in a dance competition that’s supposed to be a front for the heist. This ridiculous contrivance could only be present because Farah Khan wanted some closure on her career before she became a filmmaker.
Diamonds, a safe, an underground tunnel, a hacker, a getaway plan – it sounds like the right ingredients, but all of it is so incredibly idiotic and illogical that Happy New Year feels like Ocean’s 11 re-written by baboons. There are a couple of fascinating things: Anupam Kher, who plays Charlie’s father is credited not as a special appearance, but as an “Emotional Appearance”. Charlie is named Charlie only because he can call his henchmen ‘Angels’. Even the iconic water fountain shot in Oceans 11 is reused here, probably to rub it in our faces.
That’s pretty much it. Set aside the astonishingly stupid plot, and all we're left with is an unending series of self-referential jokes on SRK’s earlier movies. When Charlie is about to lose a boxing match he says, “Badi badi matches mein choti choti cheez hoti rehti hai.” When Charlie has to instill confidence into someone, he says, “Main hoon na.” It’s so blatant and lazy it feels like you’re listening to a microphone planted under the bar stool of one of the stars on an off night.
There are other people in the cast, but this movie is only about SRK. The others don’t even get a chance to get a word in edgeways. One feels for Abhishek Bachchan, who’s given two roles and yet less screen time than Sonu Sood and his chest. Speaking of which, the male torso is displayed to a fetishist level here, beginning from SRK’s unintentionally hilarious intro: the man rises from the ground topless, dripping with wet mud. A hose pipe fires water on his body in slow-mo, and we zoom in on his left nipple, zoom out and zoom in on the right, then zoom out again. Kind of like in Batman and Robin.
How Farah Khan, who gave us hints of good satire in Om Shanti Om got sucked down into this vortex of ineptitude is anyone's guess, but Happy New Year is uncommonly stupid and tacky enough to make Sallu’s heist film Kick look as complex as Memento. Deepika Padukone once again has a weird accent, but is the least unlikable aspect of the movie, even though her character is an affront to depiction of women in cinema.
There are only a few things worse than Happy New Year, like
A) Vivaan Shah wasting his skills on fluff like this,
B) An Anurag Kashyap-Vishal Dadlani sex tape.
The latter actually exists in the movie. Kashyap also later appears in the film applauding the heroic heroes in the movie – it’s an unsubtle attempt by Farah Khan to proclaim once and for all that commercial cinema will always enslave indie. My reaction to this echoes Bachchan’s character quirk in the movie – violent, non-stop vomiting.