Hungama 2, On Disney+ Hotstar, Is The Worst Kind Of Nostalgia, Film Companion
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Director: Priyadarshan
Written by: Anukalp Goswami, Manisha Korde, Yunus Sajawal and Priyadarshan
Cinematography: NK Ekambaram
Edited by: MS Aiyappan Nair
Starring: Shilpa Shetty Kundra, Paresh Rawal, Meezaan Jaffrey, Pranitha, Ashutosh Rana, Tiku Talsania, Rajpal Yadav and Johnny Lever
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar

To put it mildly, Hungama 2 is unnecessary. There’s a thin line between comedy of errors and comedy of terrors. Priyadarshan’s return to Hindi cinema after 8 years is so dreadfully dated that, like Superman in 1978, it literally reverses the Earth’s rotation cycle to turn back time. Only, the rotation doesn’t stop reversing. At one point during the interminable film, the newer electronic appliances in my house started to vanish. My cell phone became a blackberry. The blackberry morphed into a Nokia. The hairband I wore in college pulled at my teenage locks. The front page of the newspaper flashed images of the 2002 Natwest Final. Moments later, the latest Bollywood heartthrob Hrithik Roshan flooded my TV screen. A minute later, my Marwari neighbours were dragging me to a third Hum Aapke Hain Koun screening. And to think, Christopher Nolan is criticised for painstakingly explaining the science of time in his movies. No need for all that “temporal pincer movement” jargon. His characters could just be watching Hungama 2 instead.

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It’s unfair to totally dismiss a film clocking at more than 150 minutes. But not in this case. The whole world has moved on but Priyadarshan movies still think that confusion is the cornerstone of entertainment. Worse, every second ‘comical’ situation features men questioning the character of the women in their life. The stone-age humour features extramarital affairs, single mothers, unwed pregnancies, abusive men. Paresh Rawal goes through the entire film playing an idiot husband (named Radhe of course) who thinks his younger wife (Shilpa Shetty Kundra) is pregnant from a raging affair with her ‘rakhi’ brother. Of course this isn’t true, but the film considers it productive to stretch the joke for 2.5 hours. He misinterprets the fact that the wife is actually helping her brother navigate a tricky situation of his own – where, on the verge of his lucrative wedding to a family friend, a lover from college shows up at his doorstep with a baby she never aborted. This lover of his – a girl named Vaani because he is named Akash – is mercilessly doubted and ill-treated by his family during the ‘investigation’. A cook even lies to her about her baby falling from a balcony so that she doesn’t mess things up at Akash’s engagement.

Meanwhile, there are also four devilish kids in the household who only exist so that an unwanted Vaani can have a random Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke track with them. Ashutosh Rana plays the tragic patriarch of the house – Akash’s strict father, the kids’ grandfather – who gets breathless while screaming his lines as though he seems to be angry with the film itself. Who can blame him? He was so good in Pagglait. Eventually, the story runs out of ways to be nonsensical, and has Akash threaten to rape Vaani to get the truth out of her. That’s what it comes down to. There’s more – old-school legends like Johnny Lever, Tiku Talsania and Rajpal Yadav appear because why not – but I doubt anyone cares. Akshaye Khanna, the star of Hungama all those years ago, also emerges in an apologetic cameo. Khanna has many talents, but playing a fool isn’t one of them.

It’s depressing to see mainstream Hindi cinema regress with such single-minded vision in 2021. It makes me, a disoriented viewer, feel a lot like Benjamin Button. I’m growing older, but these movies are determined to make me think like an infant. The oblivion of Hungama 2 is particularly troubling because – forget the film itself – even the filmmaking is stuck in an age where we thought misogyny and violence were funny. If this film had continued any longer, India would have gone into a state of Emergency. Among other things, press freedom would have collapsed. Imagine that.

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