(Published in The New Sunday Express, on 2 September 2012, retrieved from http://newindianexpress.com/entertainment/reviews/article599436.ece)
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha, Shreyas Talpade, Minissha Lamba, Asrani, Vindu Dara Singh and others
Director: Shirish Kunder
Rating: 1 star
I should have got the hint when Akshay Kumar, that king of lowbrow comedy, himself stayed away from promotional events because he “didn’t like how Joker was shaping up.” Hell, I should have got the hint when I learnt it was directed by Shirish Kunder. But no, I went and saw it; and so I can say with some authority that Joker is so lowbrow it’s meant for people with eyes above their brow-lines.
Everything in the film feels laboured, from the explanation of the title to the attempts at humour. The story does away with the trappings of narrative, reason, progression and originality. Here’s the premise: Agastya a.k.a Sattu (Akshay Kumar) is a scientist who is being funded by an American think tank to communicate with aliens. His nemesis is a Mick Hucknall lookalike called Simon Goeback (Alexx O’ Nell), who, it appears, wants the research grant that has been wasted on Agastya.
Agastya lives with Diva (Sonakshi Sinha), who is so cognitively challenged it takes her four years to figure out that she hasn’t been introduced to his family. We know better. The film has already acquainted us with a British cartographer’s early contact with a village populated by lunatics. The high point of the couple’s return to Pagalpur is Agastya’s sad back story. Now, if only every little boy born in an all-male nuthouse could study in the neighbouring village, head to Delhi, and get a scholarship to go to Amreeka!
With a month left to go to make contact with aliens, before his grant expires, and having wasted a quarter of it on jet lag, Agastya has a brainwave. Why not bring the media to the town, bring electricity to the town, bring revenue to the town, and save it from a dam that is drying up the rivers? And he believes he can do all this using the oldest hoax in the book.
In their enthusiasm to incorporate the village teacher’s eccentricities (“You have come go! Tu aa gaya!” “Ulti chhatri, matlab vomit umbrella?”, “Hamaara mazaak mat udaana! Don’t fly our jokes!”), the village idiot’s gibberish, the village Angrez (Lord Falkland, if you must know), a bunch of forgettable songs and triggers to our social consciousness (the ill-treatment of insane asylum inmates in 1946, apathy of politicians et al), the filmmakers forget to bring most of the film’s subplots to any sort of resolution.
In the absence of even the Akshay Kumar trademarks – well, except for a national integration type song – I doubt the film has a single salvaging factor.
Verdict: The only sentiment I was left with at the end of the film was, “Joker ko cinema se nikaalkar taash ki gaddi pe daalo.”