In Homi Adajania’s ‘Cocktail’, Meera, the character played by Diana Penty, remained etched in the mind of the audience for a very long time. While Deepika Padukone had the best written part in the film, Diana lent a certain charm and vulnerability to the character that made her stand out in a film filled with several competent actors. Everyone was looking forward to see what she does next and the kind of films she takes up. To our disappointment, Penty did not take up any film assignments for a very long time and now, one gets to see her in a film after four long years.
Happy (Diana Penty) is about to get married to Daman Singh Bagga (Jimmy Sheirgill), a man whom her father (Kanwaljeet Singh) believes is the right suitor for her. Oblivious to the people around her, Happy has already made plans to escape and run away with her boyfriend Guddu (Ali Fazal). Guddu sends a truck loaded with flowers and instructs Happy to jump on it. The plan seems to be simple and executable but Happy hops onto the wrong truck and the next day, finds herself in Lahore, Pakistan. Happy lands up at the residence of Javed Ahmed (Jawed Sheikh), an ex-Governor, and comes across his son Bilal Ahmed (Abhay Deol). While Bilal is ready to make the necessary arrangements to send Happy back to India, Happy is in no mood to leave anytime soon as she believes that as soon as she reaches Amritsar, she will have to face the wrath of her father and will be forced to get married to Bagga. Bilal’s fiancée Zoya (Momal Sheikh) comes up with a plan; she suggests that they should arrange for Guddu’s arrival in Lahore, get Happy and him married and send both of them back to India. Bilal approves the plan and along with Usman Afridi, an India-phobic Pakistani cop, sets off to Amritsar to fetch Guddu.
There have been a couple of films in the past in which the protagonist or one of the central characters lands up in a foreign country (India or Pakistan) and the film traces the individual’s journey as s/he battles several odds to travel back to her homeland. Films like ‘Henna’, ‘Dil Pardesi Ho Gaya’ and ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ have dealt with a similar subject but what separates ‘Happy Bhag Jayegi’ from these films is that, unlike the aforementioned films which were high on drama and emotions, it is a fun and quirky take on it. The film has its share of dramatic moments but comedy takes centre stage here. The first half of the film doles out some genuinely funny moments that makes you break into peals of laughter. The laugh inducing scenes are interspersed by some nice emotional moments which keep you thoroughly engaged in the film. After a good interval point, you look forward to an equally, if not more, engaging second half.
It is the second half where the film begins to lose its steam. While the first half served you with humours scenes resulting from situations which were integral to the plot, the initial portions of the second half oddly throws up some set pieces designed with the intention to make the audience laugh but fail to do so. The kidnapping sequence also falls flat. After those middling 20-25 minutes, the film manages to find its feet again and wallops towards a satisfying climax.
Abhay Deol, seen on the screen after more than two years, is very likeable as Bilal. The suave character seems tailor made for the actor. Though the character is devoid of any complex trait, the way he makes the audience realize that he has feelings for Happy, with subtle touches in his performance, is remarkable. The titular character that Diana Penty plays is starkly different from the one she played in her debut film four years back. The loud, chatty and confident Happy is nothing like the understated and submissive Meera we saw her playing in ‘Cocktail’. Diana has great screen presence and with just two films, she shows the kind of range she has as an actor. She puts her best foot forward as an actor but one feels that the character needed to have more layers to it to make it more relatable.
Jimmy Sheirgill leaves a huge impression as Bagga and perhaps, delivers the best performance in the film. His character has lesser screen time than Deol and Penty but he gets some very funny scenes and terrific dialogues to flesh out the character. Ali Fazal’s character arc is somewhat underwhelming as compared to the leading actors but he plays the role of a love struck young man with elan. Momal Sheikh, who makes her Hindi film debut, lends the right amount of arrogance and likeability to her character and her performance grows on you. Piyush Mishra’s turn as the cop who looks down on India with disdain has been etched out sensitively and his performance evokes laughs.
Mudassar Aziz shows massive improvement as a writer and director; the film is miles ahead of his debut film ‘Dulha Mil Gaya’. For the most part, he does not disappoint as a writer and a director. The dialogues, written by him, are a major asset to the film. The initial portions of the second half make you wonder if the writer-director has exhausted the potential of the basic plot/idea but the film gets back on track after hitting a few bumps. Sohail Sen’s music gels in very well with the film. All the songs help in taking the story forward. Montages have been used very well in “Yaaram” to depict Happy and Guddu’s relationship and the “Aashiq Tera” song gives an insight into Bilal’s feelings for Happy. “Gabru Ready To Mingle Hai” has nothing to do with the narrative and has been, befittingly, pushed to the end credits.
‘Happy Bhag Jayegi’ is a fun entertainer that benefits hugely from some strong performances and sparkling dialogues. Muzaffar Aziz has an eye for detail and he captures the nuances of people and the milieu on the either side of the border pretty well. The storyline is decent enough and even though the narrative takes a dip as the second half comes approaching, it resurrects itself and ends on a good note.