Ashish R Mohan, the director of Welcome To Karachi, was Rohit Shetty’s assistant on many hit films before wielding the megaphone for 2012 film Khiladi 786. No wonder then that Shetty's stamp is unmistakable in many scenes of Welcome To Karachi, especially comic ones. But can borrowing his teacher’s style save Ashish R Mohan’s film? Let’s find out.
Shammi Thakur (Arshad Warsi) is an ex-Navy captain who just can’t keep a tab on his overflowing emotions and equally wild tongue. As a result, he is dismissed from the Navy and is forced to spend most of his time with a good-for-nothing Gujarati boy Kedar Patel (Jackky Bhagnani). Kedar’s father Mitesh Patel (Dalip Tahil) is a boisterous Jamnagar-based businessman who wants his dim-witted son to take over. Kedar keeps failing and then one day he is supposed to take care of a semi-cruise wedding. As expected, this wedding turns out to be the turning point of Kedar’s life because it makes him land in Karachi, Pakistan.
Actually, Kedar loves his father and follows his orders, and thus when Mitesh asks him to leave the shore only when the guests arrive, he does it, quite literally. He sees the guests on the port and leaves in his boat, without taking them onboard. But, the foreign dancers arranged for the cruise wedding are still there, so they have no choice other than dancing on a Mika Singh song which goes like:
Cutie kameeni nikli,
Bhaure pe chadh gayi titli
Juice nikaale sugarcane ka
Kukudu koo, kukudu koo boat ma…
And, there is a distinct voice in the song which says ‘what the fafda man’ right when you expected it the most. Anyway, the boat is caught in a storm and the two lads unconsciously sail to Karachi.
So, here is a place on the earth where democracy indeed comes through the barrel of the gun. A deadly weapon is the ultimate devise to bring equality in this part of the globe which has an anthem in ‘chal bhaag nahi toh G pe laat pad jayegi.’ (What’s this G fixation in the Hindi film industry! First it was Happy Ending and now this.) After delivering a baby 3 Idiots style, the duo is out on the streets of Karachi in search of some food and then they discover the other side of Pakistan which is even darker than the usual one. There begins a mad journey which has a canvas ranging from Waziristan to Mianwali. It keeps getting larger with each moment and new players such as Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISI begin cropping up. iThe two innocent Indians are on their own in the middle of all this chaos. The rest of the film seeks answer to this question: Will they be able to overcome all the troubles and return to their mother land?
The basic idea has a novelty factor attached to it. The concept of two Hindi speaking Indians lost in Pakistan leads to an interesting premise, but then there is a flip side to it. If the plots don’t change at the right pace, then such films become completely dependent on the performances and a small mistake on the actor’s part can ruin the entire scene. Steven Bernard (editor) makes his presence felt at this juncture and the film manages to not lose its sheen in the first half at least. However, the same can’t be said about the second half.
Even at the cost of making Karachi appear like a la la land, the screenplay gives ample space to Warsi and Bhagnani to enlighten the screen with their comic timing. Their chemistry makes mostly shabbily written sequences bearable. For example, the whole Al Qaeda and Taliban part where Americans use drone to identify the enemies and how the Pakistani corrupt minister tries to prove the duo as brave soldiers is far-fetched and unbelievable, but Bhagnani’s innocent remarks and Warsi’s superb expressions save the day. It’s Arshad Warsi’s sheer comic timing that this conversation brings a smile on the audience’s face:
Azhar Baloch: Tum fir idhar aa gaya. Main Baloch.
Warsi: Aur main gaali-galauch.
But, the writers should be credited for a fantastic parliament scene where a minister initiates the proceedings with rhyming sentences. Those who have seen the Pakistani parliament videos on YouTube will immediately understand the references and then it will be difficult for you to suppress a smile. In another scene, some Pathans chase Shammi and Kedar believing that they are ‘mohajirs’ as they supported India during the recorded telecast of a cricket match, which India had won anyway.
Also, the existence of a vegetarian Gujarati in the land of kebabs brings out a lot of paradoxes of the South Asian region. But, the scene involving the Indian consulate area is purely out of place and a work of extremely fertile imagination. Welcome To Karachi has no definitive momentum as it keeps oscillating between funny, average and dull moments. Basically, the actors make it work when it’s character driven, and the writing dampens the mood when it’s plot driven. One more thing that impressed me is the choice of background score in the climax. It gives the film a completely new dimension.
Arshad Warsi is known for his comic sense but Jackky Bhagnani can surprise you with his understanding of subdued comedy in some of the scenes. It’s a mindless film, but with some great fun-filled moments.
Going by the logic of Welcome To Karachi, it won’t be a good idea to travel inside Pakistan without a gun. But, cinematic liberty suggests us to overlook such things and then Welcome To Karachi becomes a one-time watch.