Mayank Shekhar's Review: Khatta Meetha


By Hindustan Times

Director: Priyadarshan
Actors: Akshay Kumar, Rajpal Yadav
Rating: *

America has Americans. The English have Englishmen. France hosts the French, and so on, so forth. There is but no such thing related stories as an Indian. There are only Punjabis, Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Bengalis…

Akshay Kumar’s Sachin makes this linguistic observation about a truly imagined nation he lives in. Nothing unites the corrupted Indian, he says, besides a dishonest love for money: “Sirf jeb bharna hai, pet phulana hai (Just inflate your wallet, and the belly)”.

This master Sachin isn’t exactly some ‘angsty’ blaster himself. He’s a civil contractor by profession. When various levels of bureaucracy have apportioned their cuts on a designated project, he cuts down on the ingredients to build the given road. His colleagues similarly play with the mix of cement and iron when building bridges that eventually fall. It’s just that they do a bigger and better job of it. Sachin remains the poorer and unlucky one.

He wears Rayban aviator glasses indoors, tailored shirts with pleats in his baggy trousers; and bums around everywhere with an umbrella in hand, and a Reynold’s pen in his breast pocket. Caricaturist RK Laxman may not quite get this bumbling, young version of the Common Man who never spoke in his cartoons. This one prattles, babbles, raves, hams it up: does everything to catch his audience’s undivided attention. He has enough over-excited friends to outdo him, and keep the tone unbearably up still.

Sachin has Tichkule for a Maharashtrian surname, something he constantly repeats for our loud response. He lives with his father (Kulbushan Kharbanda), who in a unique effort toward national integration, speaks in thick Punjabi twang. There are other crooked Tichkules in this home you wouldn’t mind engaging with, were there chutkule (jokes) to match. The jokes, you can tell, have pretty much dried up. No amount of slapstick will wet this pool.

A humourless skit follows another then, in a script (Vellanakalude Nadu, originally in Malayalam) written over two decades ago, when potholes and politicians were even bigger civic concerns. Ol’ man Vajpayee should take credit for the way Indians drive their new Nanos now, at least over smooth national highways across the country. But that’s another story.

This one’s about wacky Akki alone. Truly, few things unite Indians, besides a high illiteracy rate, and films of Bollywood superstars. One benefits from the other. And Priyadarshan gets to churn out his own no-brainer remakes every other week.

By now, he should be able to re-structure footage, re-edit his past Hindi films as well, and release them over again with different titles. They all feel the same. Actors rotate in turns. Homes are havelis. Men dress in white. The story’s placed in the middle of anywhere. Jokes can certainly interchange.

Of all, you can hardly fault Akshay Kumar his fat salary (apparently he takes home over half a film’s budget). His presence also provides for more than regular employment to an entire set of unemployed losers. Asrani. Rajpal Yadav. Johnny Lever… It’s a good scheme. Rating: 2