'What could have been a crafty take on power play and gender politics between architect and engineer dumbs down into a clichéd bickering of elite and everyman,' says Sukanya Verma.
Only yesterday I was watching an old clip from a Bollywood award function.
Salman Khan and Karisma Kapoor had just announced Kajol's name as the winner for her negative portrayal in Gupt.
Clad in a casual salwar kameez, the famously temperamental actress appeared a mix of smug and indifferent as she marched on stage to collect her trophy and vamoosed after a curt 'Thank you.'
Somehow though, Kajol's haughty manners made for a refreshing change in a gathering of cloyingly sweet, politically correct and lobbying-for-laurels movie stars.
Two decades later, Kajol is a lot more fashion conscious and friendly but her inherent sass is as staggering as ever.
And it's the first thing to catch my eye in the introduction scene of VIP 2: Lalkar, where she’s, what do you know, accepting an award with an entitlement that becomes her.
Kajol is a spontaneous snob and breathtaking bully. She never attempts to tone down the blatancy of her conceit as the auburn-haired Vasundhara Parmeshwar -- a fiery cross between Aaina's Amrita Singh, Laadla's Sridevi, The Devil Wears Prada's Meryl Streep and producer Ekta Kapoor.
Under the snooty CEO's leadership her construction company has become a force to reckon with. But in the absence of subtext or subtlety, her grit is as empty as her growl.
Directed by Soundarya Rajnikanth, the sequel to Velraj's winsome Tamil hit Velaiilla Pattadhari neither retains the footloose humour nor the populist fervor of its predecessor.
A tedious caricature of everything that endeared us about the first one, VIP 2: Lalkar is excruciatingly shrill and silly.
There's no technique, thought or thread that binds the two. Its sole purpose is to cash in on VIP's goodwill and trumpet Dhanush as the outsmarting underdog turned messiah of the masses on screen and a star entertainer who has the audience eating out of his hand off screen.
Although his Raghuvaran spends most of his time in glugging alcohol, slo-mo dancing on streets and sexist squabbles with/about wife (Amala Paul), he's still bagging prizes and job offers.
If you've watched the first one, you too will wonder what's gotten into Amala Paul. From genial girl-next-door to cantankerous half, her character is an altogether different person.
But the real problem is VIP 2: Lalkar has no real conflict to pit its two talented protagonists against.
Director Soundarya is fixated by the idea of her brother-in-law Dhanush and his hallowed simplicity standing up to Kajol's mighty star power over punctured ego and skewed ethics.
So they spar to the best of their abilities over random reasons asserting their supremacy in a game of one-upmanship against scenarios that look embarrassingly manufactured.
What could have been a crafty take on power play and gender politics between architect and engineer dumbs down into a clichéd bickering of elite and everyman.
The film may decorate Raghuvaran and Vasundhara with awards and insist they be taken seriously but their recklessness and unprofessionalism they display makes it impossible to do so.
At one point, Kajol is yelling at Dhanush and the crowd gathered around them like an exasperated schoolteacher admonishing an out-of-control classroom. She may have even thrown in a F-word in there. The Hindi dubbed print I watched muted it out.
Expletives or not, it's always better to watch a film in the language it's originally created. The sur of a conversation is lost in translation especially when the dubbing is as clunky and inconsistent as it is here.
No wonder my favourite bit is when the film is at its quietest and quirkiest, when Dhanush and Kajol catch a breather and the script, at last, comes into its own.
I would have liked to see more such free spirit in VIP 2. Pity, it had to be the final five minutes.