Language: Malayalam

Cast: Biju Menon, Asif Ali, Baiju

Director: Nadirsha

Shaji Usman, one of three Shajis in Nadirsha’s Mera Naam Shaji, has an interesting quirk. A for-hire thug with a heart ofgold, he leaves his signature on victims by stabbing their backside, specifically around the butt. He even carries a knife for this purpose. When a character asks him why, he says it’s because he’s from Kozhikode and that’s how people like it there. It’s a gay joke and that’s all we get to understand about this unique ritual. Or maybe the writers understood the term “back”story wrong. Either ways, there are far too many, er, holes in this screenplay.

Which is about three men named Shaji, a Christian, a Muslim and… you guessed it. They hail from Kerala’s three big cities Kochi, Kozhikode and… you guessed it. Naturally, we’re primed for a comedy of errors, where these names lead to mistaken identities and loads of Priyadarshan-esque confusion(this is the only instance Shakespeare was summoned to refer to anything made by Nadirsha). But for all the showiness in bringing three separate character strands together, Mera Naam Shaji remains particularly predictable.

For one, there is only one strand that actually matters and that’s the one about Shaji George (Asif Ali). This, despite the two other Shajis getting elaborate introductions. The film’s emotional core is about Shaji George and how he reunites with his ex-lover, but we never care for them. One song; that’s all we get to understand that these two were once madly in love. So when we’re told that she’s now married to a…swinger (WTF!) we’re still at the “who is she” stage rather than the “how is she”. Even so, we can’t think of a single reason she should go back to Shaji because he still hasn’t made anything of himself.

The least we could have asked for is a few wild laughs, like we did in Nadirsha’s two previous films. But here, the crassness supersedes everything else. One of the victims of the aforementioned, um, backstabber travels with his butt out of the auto rickshaw. When another character is caught watching porn he says he must be congratulated, for porn, after all, promotes love. And when an angry woman picks a fight with one of the Shajis, he insinuates that her frustration is because of the size of her husband’s… you guessed it. And what’s that extremely derogatory thing he calls her? A feminist! Or should it be f*m!ni*t?

There’s not a single redeeming moment, not a single joke worth laughing at. How many Shajis does it take to make a film work? I don’t know, and neither does Nadirsha.

Rating:   star

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