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Saturday, May 08, 2021

Phas Gaye Re Obama

A down-and-out American 'desi’ shows up in his village back in India,looking for a hand-out.

Written by Shubhra Gupta
Mumbai | December 3, 2010 1:32:15 pm

Director:Subhash Kapoor

Cast:Rajat Kapoor,Manu Rishi,Sanjay Mishra,Neha Dhupia,Amol Gupte

Rating:***

A down-and-out American ‘desi’ shows up in his village back in India,looking for a hand-out. ‘Phas Gaye Re Obama’ takes us through Om Shastri’s travails in both his countries—the one he’s adopted to amass a lot of lovely greenbacks,which he’s lost during the recession,and the one he returns to,with a muddled plan to get out of the financial mess he’s in.

Subhash Kapoor’s film is a deft compilation of the sort of characters we wish there were more of in Hindi cinema: good guys and bad guys with the kind of smarts that keep us engaged. ‘Phas Gaye Re Obama’ makes you laugh precisely because it doesn’t work too hard at underlining the jokes. Shastri,played by Rajat Kapoor,is the biggest joker because he has no idea that the R word has hit not just Wall Street but also folks back in small town UP. The kidnapping ‘ dhanda’ is now seriously ‘manda’ because the moolah has dried up.

The return of the native,whom everyone thinks is loaded,creates ripples down the hierarchy : from local goon Bhaisaab ( Mishra) whose right hand man Anni ( Rishi,so good in ‘Oye Lucky Lucky Oye’) has big dreams of getting to Obama land,to an all-female gang run by the fearsome Munni Madam ( Dhupia),to the piles-ridden politico who lords it on top of this unlovely heap,Dhananjay Singh ( Gupte).

The crackle gets a little subdued when the plot gets into a loop. The first time the captive Mishra has that one bright idea to get himself and his companions out of a jam,it’s clever. It gets less so with every repetition. The idea of a strong female gangster is delicious,and Dhupia looks the part in her kohl-lined eyes and olive green garb,but she doesn’t have requisite menace.

But the good parts of the film overcome these things. The dialogue is earthy and energetic,and the characters are sketched with verve : please take a bow,whoever came up with the name of Anni,which immediately places the film in a specific location. Rajat Kapoor,as the loser who gets both his money and mojo back,is excellent. And the stand- out performance comes from Manu Rishi : why do we see so little of him?

shubhragupta@expressindia.com

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