Wild Wild Punjab Review: Cultural Parody at its Worst

Luv Ranjan collaborates with writers of Tabbar to write a script that is on a mission to drive the (re)viewer round the bend. The film is available on Netflix
Wild Wild Punjab Review: Cultural Parody at its Worst
Wild Wild Punjab Review: Cultural Parody at its Worst

Director: Simarpreet Singh
Writers: Sandeep Jain, Luv Ranjan, Harman Wadala
Cast: Sunny Singh, Manjot Singh, Varun Sharma, Jassie Gill, Patralekhaa Paul, Ishita Raj, Anjum Batra

Duration: 110 mins

Streaming on: Netflix

When you watch enough bad movies in life, common sense goes for a toss. The most obvious things – like language – stop making sense. For instance, deep into the hellfire that is Wild Wild Punjab, I noticed the sign ‘Operation Theatre’ in yet another human-treated-by-animal-doctor gag. It’s a familiar Bollywood sight. It’s where doctors perform surgeries (remember the red bulb over the door?) on serious patients. But for some reason, I saw Operation Theater here and instantly thought it might be the name of a covert mission that revolves around a movie theater. Or, in this case, the act of watching cinema itself. I couldn’t imagine other meanings – or medical connotations – for the term. It isn’t entirely my fault. Because getting through Wild Wild Punjab is nothing less than a full-blown mission. It is hard to fathom at best and a cultural parody gone wrong at worst. 

Wild Wild Punjab is no normal comedy. You can see what it’s going for. The Hindi film enthusiast’s view of Punjab has gone from the mustard fields and romance of the 1990s to the bleak portraits of patriarchy and sexual repression in the streaming age. The idea is to reclaim light-hearted stereotypes through the Fukrey treatment, so this film takes all the ‘problems’ of modern Punjabi society and turns them into inane jokes instead. (Two of the writers of Tabbar, one of those brilliantly bleak portraits, are complicit in this crime). This is a checklist of themes. Suicides? Let’s have a heartbroken character named Rajesh Khanna (Varun Sharma), introduced in a scene where people at a roadside dhaba make bets about how he will kill himself (knife or blade). Let’s also turn his suicidal face into a punchline. Misogyny? Let’s have a sex-addicted playboy, Maan Arora (Sunny Singh), who refers to girls as “flexible” and “stretchable” only to fall for a college girl with light eyes, ultra-red lips and a vaping fetish (she’s cool, so smoking is her birthright). Let’s also have a story written by Luv Ranjan, that naturally revolves around a cheating woman and the colourful gang of men who plan to crash her Pathankot wedding so that her wronged ex-boyfriend can tell her off. Let’s also name that woman Vaishali so that everyone can mistakenly call her ‘Veshya’ (prostitute), because of course her ex caught her going down on a colleague at work. Meninists, unite. 

Wild Wild Punjab on Netflix
Wild Wild Punjab on Netflix

Violence? Let’s have a toll-booth brawl ended by who else but Varun Sharma peeing on the booth and setting it ablaze. Let’s also have him take a bullet in the butt later in the film. Dowry? Let’s have the righteous friend, Gaurav Jain (Jassie Gill), accidentally marry a bride (Patralekhaa Paul) at her own doomed wedding after offering to “buy” her at the mandap. Then let’s have her high on domesticity for the rest of the road trip. Dysfunctional families? Let’s have Gaurav’s domineering father hurl the choicest abuses at him on every phone call. Drugs? Let’s have a side chase featuring eccentric drug dealers (played by the supporting cast of Amar Singh Chamkila), the police and a bag of pills. Incidentally, none of this is funny; the execution is shabby and the end-credits, behind-the-scenes footage is more entertaining.

At some level, Wild Wild Punjab thinks it’s the buddy-movie manifestation of Chamkila himself – except it makes celebratory noise, rather than high-pitched music, about the real Punjab. I can go on, but there’s no point. This review must end, for my sake. If I write any more, ‘Operation Theatre’ will sound like a business enterprise centered on restoring vintage cinema halls only to sell tickets at multiplex prices. The disassociation is random, I know, but so is this film.

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