Lage Raho Munna Bhai is a comedy with a heart
By MovieTalkies.com, 01 September 2006
Lage Raho Munna Bhai is a comedy with a heart and has a cerebral subtext – the subtext here is “gandhigiri,” as Munna calls it and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi makes his entry in the Munna Bhai – Circuit franchise in this second innings. The treatment is extremely meaningful in every aspect of the word and the film doesn’t escape any opportunity that a story like this can present to go beyond making you laugh and in between all the jokes, forcing you to pause and think. Can we really make a difference as individuals in this system? The screenplay, credited to Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi with additional inputs by Vidhu Vinod Chopra of course, faces the challenge of matching up to its predecessor’s funny and emotional super content, and comes out tops. Small wonder that a lot of LLB ideas and what notes were thrown out of the window by this team and finally Munna Bhai was destined to meet Gandhi. The film’s director, producer and lead pair are the same as the prequel and Boman Irani returns in a new avatar, this time playing a dubious builder. Vidya Balan also replaces Gracy Singh as the new female lead, and is showcased in a completely new light as compared to her debut Parineeta.
The story revolves around Munna falling for Balan’s RJ Jhanvi and entering a call-in radio contest on Gandhi with the grand prize being an opportunity to meet the RJ and go live on the radio station. Of course, our Bhai kidnaps all the intellectual help available and with his band of chelas, ensures all incoming calls of the radio station are blocked except for their own. He wins the contest and comes face-to-face with his lady love. Realising that his true calling in life would be of little appeal to beautiful and sincere Jhanvi, he lies and concocts a new identity: Professor Murli Sharma is born. However, he realizes that he needs more than his goons to help him in proving his knowledge on Gandhi. Thus begins an extensive library research on the Mahatma and voila, a miracle takes place, and Gandhi comes to life. Seeing Gandhi in person baffles our hero, and his exchanges with the dear old man enlighten him, teaching him a lot about the real way to lead life. However, no one around him is witness to the same miracle! A visit to the local psychiatrist makes matters worse when this miracle is attributed to a chemical imbalance in Munna’s head. Has Gandhi really come back to meet Munna and teach him the folly of present day India, making him the new messiah? Or is he just a figment of Munna’s imagination, an idea that has taken extreme shape into his present-day reality?
Without getting into further details and divulging plot details that have the mix of an old age home, a builder with evil machinations, a sweet doting daughter (Dia Mirza) who believes blindly in the parent’s goodness, and several other call-in incidents that bring back Zahir’s Jimmy Shergill, also in a new avatar as Victor D’Souza, Lage Raho Munna Bhai is a wake-up call to India with great humour being its true asset. It takes this simple premise and almost in a fable-like manner gives lessons to India that will beat the shit out of any classroom coaching, or for that matter, any history lesson on dear Gandhi. As Jhanvi in the film yells out enthusiastically several times: Good Morrrrrrrning Mumbai, it calls out to modern-day India to wake up from its slumber and do away with the likes of the builder-evicting-tenant gaflas that happen, marriages with fake pundits interpreting kundalis with an authority that exceeds that of even God, and the K phenomena that has caught this country’s fascination. These points may be microscopic examples, but the approach of the writing is all-encompassing, and the political scenario, the absurdly long drawn-out judicial remedies, and more… are addressed.
Cinematographer Binod Pradhan this time is replaced by Murli who does a great job in bringing to life this charming film that ensures no scene of funny exchanges is left without being underlined with emotions of its actors caught in extreme close-up. Here, the highest credit to make this story believable goes to director Rajkumar Hirani, whose complete and unfailing conviction makes this rather difficult film work. Sanjay Dutt as Munna is marvellous and no other actor could emote so effortlessly in a role that really isn’t as simple as that of a local goon, but goes beyond and attempts to touch emotional chords of a fully fleshed out character who means serious business with a high emotional quotient. Arshad Warsi as Circuit is even better this time around than before and is the icing of this instalment with a truly heartfelt performance, rising above the mere sidekick level and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the veteran Dutt, in both funny and some rather emotional and difficult scenes that bring to fore the friendship and bonding that Munna and Circuit share.
This is an ambitious film and at times takes on the burden of attempting to be a film of great consequence; it succeeds and that is the greatest achievement of Lage Raho Munna Bhai. To rise from a mere comedy and bring meaning to many things that are today passed over or brushed aside is credible. What is sadly missed in the second innings is the late Duttsaab who brought a tear to your eye and tugged at your heart with his Jadoo Ki Jhappi; yes, Munna Bhai 2 doesn’t have the Jadoo Ki Jhappi and Dilip Prabhavalkar’s Gandhi is the new dimension added to this now strong franchise. Abhishek Bachchan makes a fleeting cameo appearance in an interesting role, adding flavour to the proceedings. Commendable support players like Kulbhushan Kharbanda make the film better with their genuine performances, being the character more than the actor, and ironically is the K factor obsessed man in the film (wonder if his initials were coincidental or he was specifically chosen for this K factor story!).
Raju Hirani is extremely strong on extracting performances from his actors, and it is evident that this team had a terrific time working together. Sanju and Arshad play to each other’s one-liners like the London Philharmonic Orchestra plays to an ace conducter. Their reactions, from subtle interjections to long emotional exchanges to pure wit, all match effortlessly. One’s only complaint in this ace display was Boman Irani as the sardar builder, a bit miscast as his parsi origins don’t remain concealed in the important sequences. There aren’t any sardar traits that come to the fore and add colour to the proceedings. But these are small complaints, for it’s Munna and Circuit’s show, put up by Raju Hirani under the ace tutelage of Vinod Chopra, it is a must-see show. Mamu log, yeh picture dil aur dimaag se dekhne ka, aure life mein kuch karne ka! Lage Raho India.