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Poster Boys Movie Review: A Clueless Social Comedy

This film about three men - Sunny Deol, Bobby Deol and Shreyas Talpade - whose pictures accidentally end up on the poster of a vasectomy campaign isn’t even smart enough to be a satire

Rahul DesaiRahul Desai

September 8, 2017 | 11:09 AM

FC Rating

★★★★★
film-companion
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Director: Shreyas Talpade

Cast: Bobby Deol, Sunny Deol, Shreyas Talpade, Sonali Kulkarni, Samiksha Bhatnagar

When the opening credit of a film – somewhere between the poorly dubbed Rahul Dravid starring anti-smoking disclaimers and the first frame – reads “Special Thanks to Ajay Devgn and Rohit Shetty,” it’s impossible to be optimistic about the next two hours. In fact, it takes all the will power in the world to not walk out right then. So I stick around, because the Deols are essentially nice men.

Or at least, they’ve always looked nice and sincere. They look like decent North Indian men who’d make for polite hosts before 8 PM and legendary conversationalists after 8 PM. They humour us because we humour them. When they attempt comedy in films, it’s like watching round school kids making their friends laugh by eating salads instead of cheeseburgers at the canteen.

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Then a “special thanks to Tusshar Kapoor” credit appears – and Poster Boys suddenly felt like a deformed amalgamation of Golmaal and Kya Kool Hai Hum, even before it began. It wasn’t far off, eventually. Except, it wasn’t as consistently juvenile as Golmaal or as relentlessly cheap as Kya Kool Hai Hum. This could be a good or bad thing, depending on the kind of brainless laughs you prefer. Unfortunately, it isn’t even smart enough to be a satire.

I’m not a big fan of adults acting like circus idiots in the name of comedy. They call it “masala family films” here. We have a term for everything that doesn’t make sense. Cartoonish sound triggers, guttural voices and flexible faces, childish reaction shots, cultural caricatures – I’m just about done with this inexplicably loud Bollywood language. Poster Boys does all this and more. It makes grown men sound like children and Shreyas Talpade (director and actor) sound like, well, Shreyas Talpade – a vastly intimidating prospect these days.

However, it’s quite self-aware, in the sense that it knows how terrible Sunny and Bobby Deol are at being funny, and utilizes their complete cluelessness as part of an all-in-good-spirits parody package. For most part, they seem like they’re laughing at their own (acting) inadequacies.

Jaagavar’s Punjabi wife is played by Sonali Kulkarni, the veteran Marathi actress who goes out of her way to tarnish our memories of her elegant Dil Chahta Hai role

The premise is kind of believable, too, if you don’t take director Talpade’s wannabe-Shetty buffoonery into account. Three men at different stages of adulthood find themselves in deep trouble when their pictures accidentally end up on the poster for a nasbandi (vasectomy) campaign. Given the recent trend in Hindi cinema (Baadshaho, Indu Sarkar), I expected Sanjay Gandhi to pop out of nowhere and give us the evil eye again.

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Hulk-smash Jaagavar’s (Sunny Deol) sister’s engagement is called off, schoolmaster Vinay’s (Bobby Deol) wife leaves him, and flashy Arjun’s rishta is called off by the girl’s livid father. Incidentally, Jaagavar’s Punjabi wife is played by Sonali Kulkarni, the veteran Marathi actress who goes out of her way to tarnish our memories of her elegant Dil Chahta Hai role. Again, I blame Talpade for this.

In fact, I blame him for never quite capitalizing on the potential he showed in Iqbal; the stuff he does now is, at best, B-grade fluff. Back to the plot: the three wronged men embark on a bizarre journey to clear their own names and take the irresponsible government to court over this character-assassinating mistake.

At one point, I actually thought it could be cleverly silly and perhaps pull off a Dhamaal. But no such thing happens – because the cameos and fleeting characters are missing, the gags and dialogues are missing.

One of the bright ideas includes impregnating their better halves to prove their fertility. This also includes a tasteless buffalo-sex joke that would even make the red-blooded Mastizaade makers turn crimson pink with shame. Other than some cute self-referential puns about their own filmography (Bobby has a “Soldier” ringtone, Sunny’s temper and “dhai kilo ke haath” moments put sledgehammers to shame), this movie is too obsessed with its own stupidity.

At one point, I actually thought it could be cleverly silly and perhaps pull off a Dhamaal. But no such thing happens – because the cameos and fleeting characters are missing, the gags and dialogues are missing.

Towards the end, they resort to a “nanga andolan” (naked protest) on nationwide news channels, which raises visions of an illegal amount of hairy chests and man-boobs. This happens. Nobody is spared. When it’s Sunny paaji’s turn, he slowly removes his turban at first. As he does, his buffed-up younger brother, who is watching this proudly on screen, unbuttons and strips in his living room. The problem being: this looks like a lustful brand of stripping, instead of a protest-joining strip. I almost expected him to lick his lips suggestively. Darn those crass sex comedies. My soul is irreversibly corrupted.

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Moreover, once things get preachy and political – as is the case with so many harebrained comedies that insist on being socially conscious for the heck of it – the film becomes an irony upon itself. The same men who had babies to prove their “manliness” now decide to give the country a noble lecture on the importance of family planning and population control.

They promise to have a vasectomy after overpopulating the village on their own. Even the more progressive aspects (babies out of wedlock, the “girl child” syndrome) of the film are too self-conscious, as if Talpade himself were getting used to the ideas while filming. Surely he doesn’t expect us to concentrate on anything else in a film whose highlight is Bobby Deol’s bright yellow Hello Kitty pajamas?

Watch the trailer of Poster Boys here: