Khichdi needs a lot more masala, observes Deepa Gahlot.
At a time when everybody is getting so thin-skinned, Gujaratis still laugh at themselves.
The television comedy show, Khichdi, about the Parekh family, full of dim bulbs, was such a hit that it became the first Indian sitcom to be adapted to a movie.
Writer-Director Aatish Kapadia has his work cut out for him, coming up with bizarre situations in which the Parekhs find themselves, and lines that have puns shooting out like bullets from automatic guns.
The patriarch, Tulsidas Parekh (Anang Desai) is the only sensible one in the family of cheerful morons, who crash through any crisis and come out unscathed because the other side throws down their weapons, unable to put up with the nonstop nonsense.
One of the ancestors mangled English so badly that the British left in frustration!
Her descendant Hansa (Supriya Pathak) has inherited that trait and her husband Praful (Rajeev Mehta), who has a memory problem, is her homegrown dictionary of oddities.
Her sister-in-law Jayshree (Vandana Pathak) is somewhat sane, but the genes pass on to Himanshu (Jamnadas Majethia, also the producer). In the last film, he had fallen in love with a Sikh woman, who lived with a 65-member clan, all named Parminder.
In the sequel, Khichdi 2: Mission Paakthukistan, the Parekhs return 13 years later, having hardly aged at all.
A hapless Intelligence officer, Kushal (Anant Vidhaat Sharma), needs the Parekhs for a mission.
Praful is a deadringer for the autocratic king of a tiny country called Paanthukistan. The king has not just oppressed his subjects but also kidnapped a scientist (Paresh Ganatra) to make a deadly robot that can destroy the world.
The Parekhs have to go in, switch the king for Praful, and rescue the scientist.
The plan has been explained and rehearsed -- they are to pretend to be a film-making crew, though all are dressed in bright, blingy outfits -- but Hansa, Praful and Himansu are incapable of doing the simplest task. It is left to Tulsidas and Jayshree to salvage the situation each time.
Kapadia knows all the quirks of this class of wealthy Gujaratis, like their capacity for majaa (fun doesn't quite capture the meaning), their fondness for food and the tendency to start cooking anywhere, whether in a helicopter or in the middle of a desert.
The chopper pilot, played by Pratik Gandhi in a guest appearance, is so exasperated by the Parekhs that he eats cyanide-laced chutney. Why was there cyanide in the chutney? Because a cockroach fell into it, and obviously pesticide had to be added to it! And so it goes!
The actors, most of them with a stage background, are hilarious, but Supriya Pathak with her Kathiawadi accent is the pick of the bunch.
By the end of the film, even Kushal starts speaking in a Gujarati accent, not to mention what happens to the world-destroying robot (Kiku Sharda).
Unleash the Parekhs anywhere and they would either start World War III, or stop it from happening.
Shoddy production values and the lack of a coherent plot spoils the effect somewhat.
If smart satire could be combined with slapstick, Khichdi would be delicious. As it is now, it needs a lot more masala.
It has to be admitted, however, that comedy is difficult these days. The Gujaratis may not start burning buses, but there's no predicting what the others would do if they took offence.