When was the last time you went to see a movie to watch a real-life film family have fun? Was it 40 years ago in Kal Aaj Aur Kal when the Kapoor khandaan - grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor, son Raj and grandson Randhir Kapoor got together to show us how the generation gap can smother a free flow of ideas and emotions within a family?
In Yamla Pagla Deewana (YPD) where the Deol parivar puts its laughing heads together for a fun fiesta, the problem in the plot is just the opposite of what we saw in Kal Aaj Aur Kal. The generation gap has disappeared. Son Bobby Deol calls his father Dharmendra 'Dharam' in the formal moments and 'Kamina' when Bobby-boy is in a particularly affectionate mode of thought.
Both father-son go around conning the whole of Varanasi in the first, decidedly more deft and amusing half of this crazy, zany, irreverent ode to a dysfunctional family. Sunny Deol's NRI character comes searching from Vancouver for a father and brother who are hardly in the mood to be found.
Cleverly often wittily written by Jasvinder Singh Bath, Yamla Pagla Deewana is big broad burlesque-styled homage to the spirit of on-screen and off-screen camaraderie. The Deol brothers are in full form and have been cleverly cast to create a somewhat disembodied study in contrasts. Bobby is deliberately loud and hammy, almost like Salman Khan in Dabangg without the humour in uniform.
Sunny Deol in a more controlled avatar than the other two Deols does his larger-than-life heroic act with habitual panache. It's interesting to see how Sunny balances out the guffaws with the fights. His character and the rest of the plot repeatedly hark back to the dhishum-dhishum bak-bak razmatazz of the 1970s when cinema was all about unabashed villain bashing on sets that were supposed to look like sets.
Director Samir Karnik who showed his sensitive side in the underrated Heroes, here muffles the mellow moods in a melee of harangue and one-liners. Interestingly, the lines of morality are delightfully blurred here. Dharmendra the ultimate super-hero of the 1970s is here an unapologetic con-man. One never knows when the he-man transforms into the hee-hee man. All that matters is that Dharmendra seems to be having fun in his sons' company. The mood of mischievous gaiety is contagious even in the second comparatively less engaging half when the entire cast moves to rural Punjab where Bobby woos the comely Kulraj Randhawa and wins over her zanily autocratic father (Anupam Kher, in full farcical form) and his battalion of goofily macho patriarchs.
For better or worse, all films about marriage and courtship in a Punjabi milieu always reminds us of Imtiaz Ali's Jab We Met. But hey, did Imtiaz's film have Dharmendra's first-born creating a raucous after drinking whiskey out of a bucket? Nahin na? There are in-house Deol jokes and references to Dharmendra neo-classics Sholay, Dharam-veer, Phool Aur Patthar and Pratiggya, all adding up to a rather heartwarming tribute to the Deols.
The spirit of tongue-in-cheek irreverence dominates the proceedings. The film has a rough-at-the-edges feel to it, perhaps deliberately to accentuate the rugged humour. By the time we come to the crazy climax in the godown in the second-half, someone comments, "This looks like a cheap godown set from tacky Hindi movie". And we get the point of this scrambled crazy-as-can-be exercise in subversive laughter.
Director Samir Karnik loves the Deols. The Deols love one another. And we love watching a diehard Deol fan of a director bring Bollywood's family together in a comedy that keeps us smiling till the last breathless moment of hilarious havoc.
Yes we love this film's 'anything-goes' mood. There are some delectable cameos. Watch out for Sucheta Dalaal as a spaced-out Canada-and-sex-starved spinster and Amit Mistry as a not-so-cool Punjabi dude. They get the point.
So do we.