Director: Anees Bazmee
Cast: Anil Kapoor, John Abraham, Ileana D'Cruz, Arshad Warsi, Urvashi Rautela
Producers: Bhushan Kumar, Abhishek Pathak, Krishan Kumar, Kumar Mangat Pathak
Duration: 2 hours, 29 minutes
The only thing to admire about Pagalpanti is that the makers were honest. They set expectations with the film's tagline 'dimag mat lagana' and then made no attempt to exceed them. Pagalpanti is a sloppy TikTok video stretched to a torturous two hours and 29 minutes. Whatever dimag you might mistakenly bring to the film will definitely be depleted by the end of it.
Director Anees Bazmee is a veteran of mindless comedies though he isn't a fan of that descriptor. In interviews, he insists that it takes a lot of mind to do these films. Comedies like Pagalpanti, he says, don't get made out of thin air. Which begs the question – how exactly do these films get made? What does the story narration consist of? How do Bazmee and his co-writers Praful Parekh and Rajiv Kaul decide that it's time for an item number in a haunted house or that in this scene, obviously fake digital lions will appear or that the villain will be a Nirav Modi look-alike named Niraj Modi, which will allow the cartoonish story to pretend that it also has a patriotic slant. Or maybe part of John Abraham's contract is that in every film, his character needs to give at least one speech about humara desh.
There is a lengthy sequence in which characters get stuck to a truck with super-glue; a dance number in which all of them are dressed in Arabic attire and surrounded by belly dancers and a chase sequence in which cars are causing mayhem in London, where the film is set. There is little to connect all of this. It's like the writers wrote independent scenes and then decided to string them together desperately hoping, not that they will make sense, but that somehow, they will make us laugh. But here's the tragedy – Pagalpanti is singularly unfunny. Stray jokes land but by the second hour, the film is an arid, flat wasteland that you must endure to get to the end credits.
By this time, I actually started to feel bad for John and Anil Kapoor who sportingly sacrifice their dignity to make us smile – at one point, John playing the always unlucky Raj Kishore, is wearing a clown suit. And Anil, as the lily-livered mafia don Wifi, is lying on the floor and shaking his body while singing, "I am a disco dancer." The women don't even get the opportunity to embarrass themselves. Ileana D'Cruz's brief must have been: Look pretty and helpless. Kriti Kharbanda is a plastic dumb heiress. And Urvashi Rautela, in tight leather pants and zero expressions, provides some relief as unintentional comedy. Saurabh Shukla playing the gangster Raja Sahab gets to wear some nice bathrobes and carry a bejeweled cane. I hope he had fun.
Pagalpanti is so soul-sucking and brain-dead that it makes Bazmee's last film Mubarakan look like high art. John said in an interview that they made this film to spread happiness but I came out depressed. In a few weeks, we will be entering a new decade. Hindi cinema needs to be better than this.