Yet, Guddu Rangeela never quite soars, says Raja Sen.
Guddu was a stupid Shah Rukh Khan film, Rangeela was a terrific Aamir Khan film.
Subhash Kapoor’s Guddu Rangeela might have nothing to do with the Khans or their 1990s films, and yet it falls, fittingly enough, halfway between a really fun ride and a film that goes nowhere. It has an intricate, interesting plot and a set of fine actors visibly having a good time, but it lacks finesse and consistency.
Still, thanks to the actors and the brisk narrative, it’s certainly worth a watch.
Guddu and Rangeela, played by Amit Sadh and Arshad Warsi, are a pair of singing-dancing scamps who cross paths with too many gangsters, and, with a big debt on their heads, they take on a lucrative mission to kidnap a deaf-and-dumb girl.
This kidnapping happens within seconds; one moment the girl is being asked if she prefers Shah Rukh or Salman, the next she’s been carted into the back of a Scorpio. (See what I mean about a brisk narrative?)
The plot rolls on and quickly establishes its heroes and villains, setting us up for a fun melee, with some anti-Khap commentary thrown in.
The problem can be illustrated by the fact that the girl, Baby, played by Aditi Rao Hydari, fiery-eyed and fierce, isn’t mute after all. That plot-point lasted all of two minutes.
Despite the fun opening song Mata Ka Email, the fact that Guddu and Rangeela are professional performers is never used again either. (See what I mean about utter inconsistency?) Kapoor tries so hard to make sure his film is quirky that he doesn’t care about how clever or funny it actually is, and Guddu Rangeela could well have fallen flat -- except for the actors.
Ronit Roy leads the pack, playing a small-town Melisandre as he enforces Khap rules and tells parents to strangle their disobedient daughters. As Billu Pehelwan, Roy is intensely demonic and utterly believable as a local tough, snarling a 'rrrap' sound to makes sure even goats leap out of his rampaging path. He’s super.
Arshad Warsi could, to be fair, now sleepwalk through a part like this. Then again, it’s Warsi’s sheer likeability that keeps the film going at least in the first half.
Aditi Rao Hydari is perfectly cast as a bright-eyed girl who knows more than she lets on, and the actress looks luminous -- particularly when surrounded exclusively by laffangas.
It takes a while for Sadh, the laffanga in love with her, to find his groove; the first few scenes see him very uneasy, but he gets better and his body language feels less forced.
There’s a fine moment the two actors share where he propositions her with strikingly succinct bawdiness -- I doubt any film has had a one-word seduction -- and he nails the delivery while her eyes instantly brim with scorn even as her tongue is too busy telling him off.
A lot of the film’s heavy lifting is done by great actors like Rajeev Gupta, as an antakshari-loving cop, Dibyendu Bhattacharya as a PR-guy for the underworld, and the ever-awesome Brijendra Kala.
Kapoor wisely gives each of their characters enough elbow room, and that holds the film together even when the jokes themselves aren’t as sharp. Kapoor has a fine eye for farcical idiosyncratic touches, like a scene where villains run past a giant Ravan head or when we see a group of saffron-clad sadhus playing soccer -- which only goes to show that Messi is God to everyone.
Yet Guddu Rangeela never quite soars.
The ingredients are all there and there are times it’s all good and rollicking, but a lot of it seems slapped hurriedly together. The fact that Guddu and Rangeela are a couple of weary dogsbodies who, according to their theme song, 'drink down their own tears, neat' is never shown to us, only told. Still, it’s a decent ride.
It’s no Ishqiya, but at least it has some heart.