Happy New Year (2014)

Back in 2007, Indian director Farah Khan surprised the world with the blockbuster, Om Shanti Om, a delightful tribute to the true taste of Bollywood. Now, seven years later, filmmaker Khan returns to her glistering roots as she calls upon old alliances Shah Rukh Khan, Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), and Deepika Padukone, Chennai Express (2013), to rekindle the magic they fused together in Om Shanti Om with her latest, Happy New Year; a hectic hybrid between crime caper and international music competition. Produced by married couple Gauri Khan, My Name Is Khan (2010), and Shah Rukh Khan, under the banner of Red Chillies Entertainment, Happy New Year was originally conceived back in 2005, despite being shelved in lieu of Khan’s Om Shanti Om. After the disappointment that was Khan’s, Tees Maar Khan (2010), Farah began to consider the possibility of reviving the deferred project.

Right from the picture’s extravagant opening, it’s clear that Happy New Year is going to be a flashy, lavish and excessive affair. From the moment we first meet Chandramohan ‘Charlie’ Sharma (Shah Rukh Khan) — a Boston University Grad, who makes his living by wrestling — we are basically urged to suspend all reason and logic by simply going-with-the-flow. Within the flick’s first few minutes, we discover that Charlie has been planning — for eight years now — to avenge his father’s wrongly accused incarnation by hotshot ignoramus, Charan Grover (Jackie Shroff). In order to execute his exhaustive plan — to loot several priceless diamond pieces that have been entrusted to Grover’s highly secured vault, in turn framing Grover for the theft — Charlie enlists the help of four ‘losers’ he names ‘Charlie’s Angles.’ His team of incompetent cohorts is made up of Charlie’s partially deaf childhood friend, Jagmohan ‘Jag’ Prakash (Sonu Sood), who works an explosive specialist on a movie set, the infantile safe cracker, Temhton ‘Tammy’ Irani (Boman Irani), and young computer hacker Rohan Singh (Vivaan Shah), who happens to be a friendless loaner.

India Waale!
India Waale!

The troop are also joined by a drunk — able to vomit at will — Nandu Bhide (Abhishek Bachchan), as he shares a striking resemblance to Charan Grover’s son, Vicky Grover, whose finger prints are needed to bypass security. But when the rag-bag of miscreants learn that they need to take part, and qualify in, the World Dance Championship final, held on New Year’s Eve, just to get close to the vault, Nandu introduces the crew to bar dancer Mohini Joshi (Deepika Padukone), a talented instructor, eventually convinced to teach the dysfunctional squad how to dance; though she is not made privy to their harebrained scheme. But, can a ‘socially impaired’ Team India win the hearts of millions in their quest to pull off the biggest diamond heist in history?

If a group of rambunctious actors, sporting an array of colorful costumes, whilst enacting a wild heist is your idea of a good time, than Happy New Year is right up your ally. Although Khan’s film is immensely silly and over-the-top, it’s a darn great entertainer, thanks to the picture’s energetic cast who clearly give the project their all. Mega-star Shah Rukh Khan, whilst exposing his impeccably sculpted 8-pack abs — which appear to be mandatory in contemporary Bollywood — excels in every department of his role, whether it’s his quintessential romance with Deepika Padukone, his fight sequences, or his acting, Khan’s seasoned authority carries the picture along its frantic narrative. Abhishek Bachchan, Dhoom (2004), is equally as terrific in his double act as Nandu Bhide/ Vicky Grover, completely inhabiting his dual roles, undoubtedly dishing out the best laughs in the film with his wacky snake dancing and erratic puking, in turn, verifying his capability as a gifted comic actor.

For Khan and Padukone, third time's a charm!
For Khan and Padukone, third time’s a charm!

The ever-versatile Boman Irani, 3 Idiots (2009), inhabits his tailor made role as the self-confessed Parsi ‘stud’ with ease, receiving full-marks for his engaging character work. Vivaan Shah, 7 Khoon Maaf (2011), is passable as the underwritten junior hacker Rohan Singh, albeit Shah comes-off as rather forgetful when compared to his shining co-stars, whereas Sonu Sood, Jodhaa Akbar (2008), exploits his immaculate body yet still manages to deliver a decent slapstick act. Leading lady, Deepika Padukone — in her third feature starring alongside Shah Rukh Khan, after Om Shanti Om (2007) and Chennai Express (2013) — shines like a star as the dance teacher obsessed with Shakira and J-Lo, successfully balancing elegance with wit, whilst once again, verifying her explosive chemistry with co-star Shah Rukh Khan. Let’s not forget about Jackie Shroff, who, after his ‘fatherly act’ in last year’s Dhoom: 3 (2013), takes on a villainous role and builds a soundly solid baddie. Customary to filmmaker Farah Khan, no picture is complete without its cameos, so look out for Indian director, producer and screenwriter Anurag Kashyap and musician Vishal Dadlani as a couple of unlikely bed partners, and writer-director Sajid Khan riotously parodying himself, just to name a few. Perhaps the picture’s biggest star surprise is the ‘acting’ debut of Shah Rukh Khan’s youngest son, AbRam, who makes his first on-screen appearance during the film’s end credits.

As one would expect, the music of Happy New Year is one of the picture’s major highlights. The addictive ‘India Waale,’ composed by Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani, Ra.One (2011), has already become an Indian anthem of sorts, with its catchy rhythm and Irshad Kamil’s, Raanjhanaa (2013), vibrant lyrics. ‘Manwa Laage’ is the usual dreamy romance track, totally synonymous with other Shah Rukh Khan pictures; however, the sorrowful voices of Arijit Singh, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), and Shreya Ghoshal, 3 Idiots (2009), elevate the number’s familiar nature. The Arabic-influenced ‘Lovely’ is okay at best, as the track’s endless repetition and nosy music somewhat hinder the song’s overall repeat listening value, nevertheless, Deepika’s eclectic dance number undoubtedly makes for an entertaining sequence. Finally, Mika Singh’s ‘Nonsense Ki Night’ is vibrant and fun, while ‘Dance Like A Chammiya’ is upbeat — even if it’s just your typical ‘masala’ number — and possibly stands as my favorite musical act in the entire flick.

Cheers to the festival of light!
Cheers to the festival of light!

As its outrageous premise almost suggests, Happy New Year is full of in-house spoofs and winning parodies that generally amuse thanks to the flamboyant nature of the script, penned by the likes of Althea Kaushal, Love Game (2009), Mayur Puri, Om Shanti Om (2007) and Farah Khan. Sporting a lush production, showcasing the marvel of Dubai — with a large portion of the story taking place at the prestigious Atlantis, The Palm — Happy New Year is pure unashamed Bollywood, complete with opulent stage settings, loud costumes and huge crowd sequences. With Shah Rukh Khan at the center of the chaos, a tremendous soundtrack and a very funny ensemble cast, Happy New Year has no trouble compelling viewers to laugh helplessly throughout its mammoth 180 minute run time. In the end, one can’t help but admire director Khan’s sincere objectives, as she merely wishes to make us smile.

4 / 5 – Recommended

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Happy New Year is released through Yash Raj Films