I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what kind of place, if any, the ‘masala-comedy’ school of cinema – like that of David Dhawan – has in this day and age. While there’s nothing wrong with that brand of film, the question is around whether you can make a film that rides almost exclusively on that kind of silly humour and still package it in a (relatively) competent manner. Well, with Judwaa 2 I got my answer and found myself with renewed faith in the genre.
To my surprise David Dhawan is back in his element, giving us a fun-filled ride which sails on nostalgia, utter madness, and an assembly line of playful one-liners many of which had me in splits. The film entirely owns its brand of humour with some enjoyably ridiculous and wonderfully absurd gags. Above all else, what makes Judwaa 2 work is its self-awareness, and how wholeheartedly the film accepts its silliness and wears it on its sleeve.
Humour aside, the film entirely rides on the unflinching energy and industrial sized charisma of Varun Dhawan who wholly submits to the world of the film. I’ve admittedly had a tough time in the past stomaching his frenzied-hyper-energizer-bunny avatar in films like Main Tera Hero and Dishoom, but here he appears to be far more comfortable in his skin, clearly having a ball of a time channeling his inner Salman Khan. This is partly down to the fact that he has better material to work with here in terms of the humour from dialogue writers Sajid-Farhad’s. I honestly can’t think of many other actors who’d be able to do similar justice to this kind of movie.
What’s more, director Dhawan has done a fair job of updating the original story to a modern setting and ironing out many of the issues of the earlier film in that this is far pacier and boasts of a number of surprisingly impressive action sequences. These aside, for the most part Judwaa 2 is loyal to its predecessor in terms of storyline, characters, songs and iconic scenes.
However, while it shares the same devoid-of-all-logic spirit of the original, it also retains many of the regressive elements of that film. Suffice to say there’s plenty of ass-grabbing and forced kissing to be found here under the garb of ‘comedy’. Jacqueline Fernandez’ Alishka actually falls in love with Varun Dhawan’s Raja as a result of a prolonged forced kiss. Yes, because screw consent and just keep at it and eventually they have to give in right? Add to that one vicariously horny mother who desperately wants her daughter to get laid no matter under what conditions, and a healthy dose of underlying racism in the form of a group of muggers who attack Raja, all of whom are naturally black.
And then you have Taapsee Pannu. While there’s nothing wrong with the actress’ attempt to broaden her horizons by opting for a more commercial vehicle, to see her being repeatedly force-kissed in is deeply unsettling. This was the woman who spearheaded one of the most important films of the last decade in last year’s Pink and became the overnight face of consent and gender equality. To see her here, doing this felt like a sad joke. What’s more she doesn’t fit into this world as well and isn’t as comfortable with the pitch as co-star Fernandez.
Many of the film’s gags are thoroughly enjoyable such as a slew of movie references and impressions from Dhawan who spares no one from the Khans to Baahubali. While it takes some time to find its feet, the first half is undoubtedly where the film is in its comedic element with the second half losing steam somewhat and lasting longer than it needs to. By way of performances, while this is a Varun Dhawan show all the way as twins Raja and Prem, much of the supporting cast does well in all their slapstick splendour, particularly Anupham Kher and a visibly older Rajpal Yadav who is great as Raja’s loyal best friend Nandu – the role previously played by Shakti Kapoor.
In the end Judwaa 2 was a pleasant surprise and despite some painfully regressive elements, renewed my faith in masala-comedy-cinema, to the extent that I find myself almost looking forward to the next David Dhawan outing, I’m going with 3 and a half stars.