(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on 2 September 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/plumbing-the-depths)
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha, Shreyas Talpade, aliens and others
Director: Shirish Kunder
Rating: ½ star
Shirish Kunder’s Twitter bio reads, “Part-time filmmaker; full time assassin”. He may be right. You see, there are some movies that appeal to the intelligent; there are others that appeal to the idiots; and there are some that don’t even appeal to their makers. And then there is Joker, which could induce lemming-like behaviour in viewers.
The film opens in 1946, when a British aristocrat-cartographer flees a town whose lunatics have broken out of their asylum, and leaves it out of the Indian map, damning it forever. Or until Agastya (Akshay Kumar) and his lustier, broader, more macho better half (Sonakshi Sinha) come to its rescue. I thanked God for small mercies when the film skips the romance, but then the dialogue (penned by Kunder) begins.
Agastya is a scientist who speaks wistfully of reaching out to aliens. Blame it on his upbringing in Pagalpur. We must also blame this for his choice of girlfriend – I mean, who says, “I have some bad news for you too. Your father’s drawing his last breath” right after her boyfriend nearly gets sacked? Chalo Hindustan. What, you needed me to tell you all scientists live in America?
Some awful graphics and worse acting later, we’re plunged into Chitrangada Singh’s cleavage in I Want Just You (chastened from I Want Fakt You). It appears the women of Pagalpur only appear in item numbers and magically produce babies that their menfolk raise.
Oh, the menfolk. Man who imagines he’s king, check. Man who Englishes Hindi idiom, check. Token Angrez, check. Man who speaks gibberish, check. Shreyas Talpade’s only line is “Gal giskot mankaboosi golgot”, and he tries to pace it to the cloying music (scored by Kunder). Agastya dreams of setting up an observatory lab to lure aliens to this land, hours after getting ready to leave in a huff. You know how a fall in the river and an incongruous song can provoke epiphanies.
The village is teeming with problems – rumours of subterranean oil deposits, no electricity (how lucky that none of the cameras, computers and mobile phones here need charging!), subplots and a tagline: “Joker ko taash ki gaddi se nikaalkar circus pe daalo.” Thanks to Agastya, it teems with aliens and media too.
Unencumbered by logic, the film is mainly populated by what I presume are Israeli tourists, and an American who takes the story far too seriously for his own good. And as if this horror were incomplete without her, Farah Khan makes a guest appearance.
The Verdict: If he’d watched ET, read Toba Tek Singh, gone on an acid trip, and got sponsored by BP, Aesop may have come up with this.