Director: Aniket Chattopadhyay
Cast: Dev, Saswata Chatterjee, Kharaj Mukherjee, Rajatava Dutta, Koushani Mukherjee,Puja Banerjee, Roja, Paromita Dey, Koneenica Banerjee, Manasi Sinha, Arna Mukhopadhyay
At the film’s special screening hosted by Dev, the superstar asks me how many films I have seen in the last couple of days. I tell him: Hoichoi Unlimited will be the sixth. He rolls his eyes and wants to know which one I liked best. When I say, well, for one, Manojder Adbhut Bari, and why, he laughs. ‘This is an entirely different kind of film,’ he says. I wonder for a moment if the biggest contemporary star of Bengali cinema is being defensive. However, as the film starts and I am caught up in a whacky roller-coaster ride, I realize there’s nothing to be defensive about. In fact, he is spot-on: it is entirely different from Manojder Adbhut Bari, but so is the latter from Hoichoi Unlimited – and thank god for that. After all, you want to wear a new dress every day of the pujas!
The plot in this film by Aniket Chattopadhyay is just an excuse for a series of gags strung together, in a cinematic equivalent of non-sequiturs, some of which work, some don’t. However, the ones that do outweigh the ones that don’t – and that’s all you can ask for. Kumar (Dev), Animesh (Saswata Chatterjee), Bijon (Kharaj Mukherjee) and Azam (Arna Mukhopadhyay) plan a trip to Uzbekistan to escape the troubles that plague their daily lives. Why Uzbekistan? Your guess is as good as mine. But it does give you a wonderful conducted tour of the country. Kumar is the no-good ‘ghar jamai’ of a business tycoon, not averse to palming off his father-in-law’s Rs 90-lakh Mercedes to a lungi-wearing South Indian for a down payment of Rs 3 lakh. (It’s another matter that he does not know that the man is a high-ranking police officer, and when he finds out, rips off another few lakhs from the officer.) Animesh is a hard-of-hearing ex-Air Force officer who just needs an excuse to go into ‘Back in 1971, when…’ mode, and is being bullied by a real estate shark who wants him to hand over his ancestral property. Bijon has his hands full trying to manage two wives who don’t know the other exists, and Azam is a garage mechanic married to a ‘junior artist’ in films, who is rather ashamed of her husband being a ‘lowly’ mechanic.
The comedy is all broad brushstrokes, slapstick, often hitting below the belt, but made watchable by an ensemble of talented character actors, with Saswata and Kharaj in particularly fine form.
The comedy is all broad brushstrokes, slapstick, often hitting below the belt, but made watchable by an ensemble of talented character actors, with Saswata and Kharaj in particularly fine form. Dev himself is not bad as the lazy bum forever on the lookout to make easy money. It is he who comes up with a convoluted plan to con his father-in-law on the pretext of starting a chemical factory and make off for Uzbekistan. However, the bumbling idiots that his comrade-in-arms are, it is no wonder that the plan is doomed right from the start. To add to their woes, a plane is hijacked by ‘terrorists’ and flown to Uzbekistan, and the four musketeers are all over TV screens as prime suspects.
One of the pleasures of the film is the gleeful political incorrectness of many of the gags. The guys are mistaken for ‘terrorists’ only because airport CCTV grabs show them in jubbas and skull caps (they are in disguise to hide from Animesh’s aunt, who travels with a retinue of nineteen bags). Azam looks at Amir Taimur’s statue in Uzbekistan and immediately identifies him as a terrorist! There are running gags about Animesh’s hearing aid and Azam’s stammer. There’s a hilarious reference to Kabir Suman in the context of Azam’s birth certificate referring to his father’s name as Rana Banerjee. And of course, given Dev’s political affiliations, there are amusing puns on ‘mitron’, ‘mann ki baat’, ‘achhe din’ and ‘no cash, all digital economy’.
The film makes no bones about its purpose: entertainment, entertainment, entertainment. And it largely manages to entertain, despite the episodic, often disjointed script. The pre-climax chase across Uzbekistan is pure Priyadarshan territory with the RAW, the Uzbek authorities, the local mafia and our protagonists’ wives hot on their heels. What makes Hoichoi work is that it does not take itself seriously, as also the speed at which the proceedings move, giving you little time to reflect on the illogicality of what’s unfolding on-screen. Though the songs do act as speed-breakers, what’s a masala Dev entertainer without his twinkle toes? To his credit, Dev never hogs the limelight, giving the actors around him enough space to bring out the laughs. Rajatava Dutta is particularly funny in four roles – a Christian padre, a travel agent, a tuition centre owner and a private eye, complete with a black long coat and hat – and then a bonus one right at the end where he insists he is Rajatava Dutta, the actor!
True to its title, the film is a riot, though one wishes there was a little more hoichoi (chaos), making it truly unlimited. However, much like Salman Khan’s Eid releases, which are often crowd-pleasers more than anything else, Hoichoi is just what the doctor ordered for a good family outing during the pujas.
Watch the trailer here: