Abhishek Mande feels Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt's latest movie has very little to offer except perhaps a headache that could well ruin your festive spirit.
Back in school, around this time every year the rehearsals for the Nativity play would begin amidst much excitement. All of us who got selected to be part of it thought we were brilliant; the teachers who directed it thought they were brilliant too and the young students who were part of the audience clapped at the right moments during the play and patted our backs at the end of it.
Later as I grew up and thought it rather childish to act in Nativity plays (and preferred being the audience instead) I realised that for practically everyone sitting there watching it, the play was just another pastime, a legitimate excuse to get out of the classroom for that one hour.
I suspect our audience's relationship with Bollywood today is much like my schoolmates' relationship with the play that told the story of Jesus' birth every single year -- like my friends from school we look at films merely as a relief from our humdrum existence and no more.
The result is unsurprising -- movie directors (quite like my school teachers who directed the plays) have gone into a slumber knowing that the audience couldn't care less and rather than exploring newer ways of telling the same story, have given up bothering to try.
This week's release, Son of Sardaar is a remake of a Telugu movie called Maryada Ramanna which itself was based on a 1923 American silent movie Our Hospitality.
As you can imagine then, the story of two feuding families where a young man from one falls for the girl from another, isn't exactly fresh off the oven.
And yet here we are, almost 90 years since the story was first narrated on screen, watching a 40-something Ajay Devgn trying to pass off as a 30-something Jassi and wooing a 20-something Sonakshi Sinha who plays Sukh.
Jassi, we are told, has returned to India from the UK to claim a piece of land that belonged to his father who in a silhouette scene was killed in a feud over god-knows-what.
On the train to his birthplace in Punjab (duh), he encounters the feisty young Sukh who he falls for quite immediately.
After a series of misunderstandings, Jassi ends up in her house for lunch because, you know, that's what all Punjabis do -- bring home every new fellow they see in a gurudwara.
It isn't long before the men of the house, Billu (Sanjay Dutt) and his cousins Tony (Mukul Dev) and Titu (yes, that's his name) played by Vindu Dara Singh discover the real identity of their guest.
You see, one of the men killed in the silhouette fight besides Jassi's father was Billu's uncle whose death they have been seeking to avenge for t-w-e-n-t-y f-i-v-e years.
The only hitch is they cannot kill Jassi as long as he is a guest in their house and because well... Atithi Devo Bhava... they must lure him out of the house before they can bump him off.
What follows is an improbable series of incidents (notwithstanding the most improbable of them all -- an unclaimed piece of land in India awaiting its owner for 25 years) as Jassi tries his best to stay inside the house and its men try to get him out.
For a little over two hours, director Ashwin Dhir tortures by imposing upon us Himesh Reshammiya's and Sajid-Wajid's music as well as actors whose collective acting skill perhaps is only slightly better than those of actors in inter-school skit competitions.
The only exception to this gala mess however is Juhi Chawla who fills up the screen with exuberance that she's mercifully not lost, playing the love interest of Dutt's Billu waiting for him at the altar as he seeks to avenge his uncle's death.
There is however little she can do either as the film itself starts by being shoddy -- watch the opening fight sequence and you'll know -- and goes downhill from that point.
Son of Sardaar is part of the growing trend that Rohit Shetty started with Golmaal and is the kind of cinema that the audiences love and critics hate. While I confess to have enjoyed some of these slapstick films in most portions (Bol Bachchan being the latest), I cannot say the same about this one.
The humour is downright lame; action sequences awful; music is torturous and the less said about the direction the better.
In news reports and everyday speak Son of Sardaar is often referred to in its abbreviated form -- SOS. It was the one thing I could relate to for I entered the movie hall in hope but stepped out an agonised soul.