Priyadarshan remaking his Malayalam films into Hindi is an old story. So is his partnership with Akshay Kumar,whose penchant for playing an average joe is also old hat. So whats new with ‘Khatta Meetha,a remake of Mohanlal-Shobhana starrer Vellanakalude Nadu? Kumars character Sachin Tichkule is a regular fellow all right,but not as bumbling and naïve as hes been before. Its not like hes been cast in a mint-fresh die,but theres just about enough to keep you going for its nearly three hours of running time. Just about.
Tichkule ( Kumar) is the youngest of a family of crooked contractors,with the exception of his upright Gandhiwadi father ( Kharbanda). His brothers and brother-in-law are all corrupt and hand-in-glove with greedy politicians. Leaky bridges collapse,innocents die,and the gang keeps going merrily. Tichkule is not squeaky clean himself,and is not above bribing and threatening officials to get his cheques out,and contracts in.
Kumar,whos been in a slew of box office duds lately (except for the moderately successful ‘Housefull,which was early this year,all his last years films crashed),throws himself into the role,and well he might,given that hes in practically every single scene. Dowdy bush-shirts,a cash-bag for the wrist,ropy sandals,and an old-fashioned umbrella make up Tickhules exterior,and even though Priyan is not known for his interiority,he manages to make Kumar a tad more interesting than hes been recently.
It helps that he has a new face,Trisha,to play opposite : the romance is also not as worn as it can be in the really bad Priyan movies. Shes called Gehna Ganpule,is an upright ‘sarkari cog,and gets to push Akshay Kumar around a little,before succumbing to his homegrown charms.
A couple of things stop this from being a good Priyan movie. It is criminally long, burdened with flat comedy tracks as faulty as Sachin Tichkules roads. Rajpal Yadav is made to execute a favourite Priyadarshan scene : to peep into a bathroom with a wet woman in it. Someone should tell him the novelty wore off long back. Plus,the film veers uneasily between heavy emotion and loud comedy,another perennial Priyan problem. There are also a few objectionable scenes in a film which will be viewed by families with children,chief among those being a woman ( Sharma) being subjected to sexual violence,her naked back on full display. The scene is slipped in without warning and makes you cringe.
Laugh out loud would have served ‘Khatta Meetha,and us,better. Its been too long since Priyadarshan served up one of those.