By Hindustan Times
Joker testifies to the power of the star in Bollywood. It is staggeringly inept. I can't imagine that it was persuasive even as a concept.
Yet it got made, in all likelihood because Akshay Kumar said yes. (Curiously, after making it, he disengaged from the project and didn't do any promotion). Joker has Akshay playing a NASA researcher named Agastya working on a machine that will communicate with aliens. He's struggling to make the one-million-dollar contraption work when he gets news that his father is dying. Agastya comes from a village called Paglapur. The 600-odd residents of Paglapur are eccentric because they are have all descended from the inhabitants of a lunatic asylum. Agastya's father, it turns out, is actually hale and hearty, the story about his dying a ruse to get his son to come home and help the floundering village, which has no running water or electricity. When local politicians refuse to help, Agastya comes up with the bright idea of faking crop circles and aliens to get the world to pay attention to the village's plight.
I think we are supposed to laugh and marvel at the ingenuity of these village bumpkins. Here is who they are: Shreyas Talpade, who speaks only gibberish and is hands-down the most annoying; Vindu Dara Singh, who seems to be a junior artiste from Dharam Veer because for reasons never explained he wears a gladiator-style miniskirt; and Asrani, who is the local teacher who translates from English into Hindi and vice-versa. When someone says, "Hamara mazaak mat udaao", he helpfully renders that as, "Don't fly our jokes." At one point, Agastya refers to a UFO as an "udta firta omlette." The humour is so lame that it physically hurts and, by the second half, the film loses all semblance of coherence. The White House, the FBI, the Indian Army and aliens who look like vegetables with limbs make appearances. Akshay is no stranger to bad movies so he gamely ambles through the film. Sonakshi Sinha, playing his girlfriend, is barely there; I think Asrani has more screen time than her. The biggest tragedy is that writer-director Shirish Kunder hasn't even made one of those sublimely bad films that become unintentionally funny. Joker is just exhausting. This time, the joke's on us.