Director: Rohit Jugraj
Cast: Diljit Dosanjh, Kriti Sanon, Varun Sharma, Ronit Roy, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Seema Pahwa
I think you’ll agree with me that Diljit Dosanjh is one of the most likeable actors working today. He has a simplicity and sweetness that connects whether he is playing a superhero or a cop. His comic timing is impeccable and there is an inherent honesty, a lack of artifice that connects with the viewer. But even Diljit can’t salvage the train-wreck that is Arjun Patiala.
The film is designed as a spoof. The framing device is a scriptwriter narrating his script to one of those old-school producers, who wears a white safari suit and gold. The filmmaker is played by Abhishek Banerjee, who you might remember as the hapless friend in Stree. The producer is played by Pankaj Tripathi. These opening minutes are the best in the film. At one point, the financier asks if Sunny will make an appearance. Lo and behold, Sunny Leone appears as a character.
This meta, self-aware, movie-within-a-movie could have been fun. But director Rohit Jugraj and writers Ritesh Shah and Sandeep Leyzell have created a sloppy mess. Honestly, there were moments when I had absolutely no idea what was going on – there are villains fighting each other, a corrupt MLA and a clueless, vapid television journalist played by Kriti Sanon. Varun Sharma tries to infuse some enthusiasm as the hero’s sidekick. The action is jazzed up with emojis and graphics and played out like a video game. Which might have worked better if the comedy was sharper and the plot wasn’t so incoherent. Ritesh has won multiple awards for writing films like Pink and D-Day. Rohit has created hits with Diljit like Sardaar Ji and Sardaarji 2. But here, both seem to have deep frozen their talent and worked in a coma.
Speaking of deep freeze, there is a sequence in Arjun Patiala in which Seema Pahwa and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub are stuck in a freezer. They emerge with their hair standing upright frozen in ice. My heart went out to them. These are two of our finest artists reduced to buffoonery.
Arjun Patiala couldn’t have been funny even at a script level. So how and why did it get made? Early on, the financier says that he’s spent decades making films but he’s never once heard a script. I suspect something like that happened with this film.
No matter how low your bar is, Arjun Patiala won’t meet it. Making movies is hard work and I always try and look for something to recommend in each film. The only plus here is that it’s short. You’ve been warned.