Cast: Varun Dhawan, Jacqueline Fernandez, Taapsee Pannu, Rajpal Yadav, Zakir Hussain, Upasana Singh, Anupam Kher
The 90s are back and it’s not pretty. Once again, heroes are macho, leering Casanovas who make show-stopping entries, heroines are cheerful bimbos who heave and thrust in all directions, villains are strapping bombs to bodies and we are hearing dialogues like – He will take your daughter for a ride. Mooh maar ke chod dega.
Honest confession – I was one of David Dhawan’s original fans. My first dose was Aankhen in 1993. I reveled in the unbridled, logic-less energy of the worlds David created with his two muses – Govinda and Salman Khan. In his best films, there was a joyous abandon. You had to stop thinking and simply submit to the madness. But I couldn’t do it with Judwaa 2.
Judwaa 2, a remake of David’s 1997 blockbuster, is the story of conjoined twins who are separated – literally – at birth but they share reflexes, which means when one gets hit, the other feels pain. Of course this only happens when it’s convenient for the story but then you don’t go into a David Dhawan film looking for consistency.
‘This basic story has been given a production upgrade – most of it is now set in London. So we have mansions, a sprawling university, snazzy cars and the usual tourist spots. The jewelry brand Boodles gets prominently showcased. Everything looks shiny and pretty – even the slums where Raja, one of the twins grows up. Raja is the rough-talking slumdog who for reasons never explained, can’t resist smacking women’s butts. His hands seem to get a life of their own as soon as he sees a rear end.
This of course is not seen as problematic. Early in the film Raja sings – Ganapati bapa morya, pareshan karein mujhe choriya while blonde dancers traipse around him. Raja comes on to any woman he meets – including the house help. He grabs a maid in a London mansion but she has no objection. In fact, none of the women have any issues with Raja’s aggressive attention. In one scene, he describes a middle-aged woman as a ‘khatara gaadi.’ This is all played as comedy.
I found it difficult to laugh. I know we aren’t supposed to take anything here seriously. Judwaa 2 is just as careless about people with speech impairments – so Raja’s friend has such a heavy lisp that you can’t understand what he is saying. There is also a mind doctor who suggests that a bipolar patient should kill himself. It’s equal opportunity insensitivity but I feel like we should know better by now. These characters were problematic even in the 90s and now they seem doubly so – Prem’s girlfriend’s mother, played by a constantly trembling Upasana Singh, seems to be in heat and in this version, at one point, he actually kisses her.
The best thing about Judwaa 2 is Varun Dhawan. He has a ferocious sincerity. In scene after scene, he just keeps going. David can’t resist showcasing his talented son – so apart from the entry, Varun gets to bash up many baddies in slow motion. He dances, romances, does comedy and sheds a few tears. And he even gets to share a frame with Salman Khan – the original hero. Judwaa 2 is the only promo reel Varun will ever need. Dialogue writers Farhad-Sajid manage to insert some laughs but these are too few and far between. It’s also fun to revisit the two chartbusters from the original – Oonchi Hai Building and Tan Tana Tan Tan Tan Taara.
But this could have had so much more sparkle. Judwaa 2 brims with talented actors and everyone – including the heroines Jacqueline Fernandez and Taapsee Pannu, comic side-kick Rajpal Yadav, Pavan Malhotra, Zakir Hussain and Anupam Kher, who at least gets to wear nice sweaters – deserved better.