Total Siyapaa review: A film that lives up to its title
Part of the problem with Total Siyapaa is that Neeraj Pandey's adaptation is singularly dull, but also, Pandey and the filmmakers are desperate to play it safe.
At 108 minutes, Total Siyapaa isn't a long film and in an ideal world, it would be a tight, clever comedy that looks at the absurdity that can arise out of a very serious subject. Then again, if it was an ideal world, that serious subject wouldn't exist and ergo, this film wouldn't exist.
Unfortunately, the world isn't ideal and E Niwas's Total Siyapaa, a loose adaptation of the Spanish film Seres Queridos, does exist. However, it's better for everyone — the viewer and the film — if one forgets this detail. Seres Queridos was about a Palestinian man visiting his Jewish girlfriend's family. While it was lighthearted and silly, it had some fun moments. Total Siyapaa copies all the prominent gags but thanks to flat performances and a cringe-worthy script, the film is simply boring.
Aman (Ali Zafar) is a Pakistani musician who is dating an Indian journalist named Asha (Yami Gautam). (Yes, the Indian heroine is indeed the living embodiment of Aman ki Asha.) When it's time for Aman to meet Asha's Punjabi family, we get cliches and more cliches, some bad acting and lots of overacting.
Kirron Kher plays Asha's overbearing mother while Anupam Kher is her father, who spends a lot of the time either sprawled, face forward, on a London road or prancing around London roads without his pants. Perhaps the most grating character in Total Siyapaa is Asha's Pakistan-hating brother Manav (Anuj Pandit), who makes everything worse with his atrocious acting. Total Siyapaa isn't entirely without its funny moments, but they are too few to make up for all the dreary, badly-enacted, lazily-conceived writing in between. It doesn't help that Zafar and Gautam have zero chemistry.
By the end of the film, one is left with two questions. How much was Anupam Kher paid to run around the streets of London, wearing only a shirt and thermal bottoms? And why do the Indian Censors think that the country's film-going crowd can't be trusted to hear the word "Kashmir"? Among the cuts that the censor demanded of Total Siyapaa was snipping a love making scene and the mention of Kashmir in one conversation. For the former, we should all thank the censors because what remains of that offending scene — it's not between Aman and Asha — involves office stationery and a flabby British man, and it's not pretty. The muting of the mention of Kashmir, on the other hand, is mystifying.
Kashmir pops up for a brief moment when the events of the disastrous meeting between Aman and Asha's family lead to the couple squabbling. The two are furious and frustrated that the evening is going so badly and they lash out at each other. She accuses him of belonging to a land of terrorists. He tells her the corruption in India claims more lives than terrorism. Along the way, the question of Kashmir and its political place in the subcontinent comes up, but the Indian censors wanted the mention of the northern state be muted. It's an absurd cut to make because that segment of the quarrel makes little sense if you don't know Aman and Asha are talking about Kashmir.
As usual, more than the cut, it's the Indian censors' presumed logic that is most intriguing. As far as the censors are concerned, all the slurs against Pakistanis in Total Siyapaa are fine and it isn't a problem if Indians' tender ears hear them. Sure, they're being uttered by characters that are entirely cartoonish so no one can take them seriously, but then the squabble between Aman and Asha is hardly less caricaturish. Regardless, Kashmir is a word that we Indians can't be allowed to hear, especially in the context of a conversation about whether it should be part of India or Pakistan. (Of course, there couldn't be a third option.) Is it because the censors would rather the rest of India forget Kashmir exists or that they'd rather we knew nothing about what happens up north?
Part of the problem with Total Siyapaa is that Neeraj Pandey's adaptation is singularly dull, but also, Pandey and the filmmakers are desperate to play it safe. Total Siyapaa restricts itself to dabbling in superficial cliches and hopes to make up for the lack of tension with terrible overacting. The film doesn't explore why the feelings of hostility have persisted between India and Pakistan and neither does it look at how they're dismissed when an Indian and a Pakistani fall in love with one another. In an effort to play safe, Total Siyapaa is dreary, boring and thanks to the censors, the film makes "Kashmir" an unmentionable word. All excellent reasons to stay far away from the film.
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