- 15 Feb - 21 Feb, 2020
- 17 Aug - 23 Aug, 2019
Pankaj Tripathi’s movie producer drops the most audacious joke in Arjun Patiala during the first five minutes of the film. Appropriately dressed in a white safari suit and covered in gold, he asks the aspiring director why he is bent on telling him the film’s story. “I have been making films for decades without once listening to any of the stories,” he says with a bemused expression.
Arjun Patiala is designed as a movie-within-a-movie, a satire on ridiculousness of cinematic clichés and done-to-death genres, with cop films as its area of focus. The Diljit Dosanjh-Kriti Sanon film couldn’t have chosen more wisely – there is a lot there to be mocked; or as suits will tell you, it is a low hanging fruit. It is a pity then that the film falls into the same trap, but is far less fun than a Simmba or a Dabangg, or even a south Indian dubbed cop movie – a genre that has kept more than one Hindi film channel afloat over the years.
Diljit Dosanjh plays the eponymous Patiala who has just snagged the job as a sub-inspector in the Punjab Police via a sports quota. His lifelong idol has been Ronit Roy’s DSP Gill who enjoys the hero status that is normally accorded to cricketers and actors in Arjun’s sleepy village. Once he is in the force, Gill asks Arjun to clean up the district and make it crime-free. Arjun goes about setting up encounters between the various criminals in his area with the able help of constable Onidda Singh (Varun Sharma), and romances an intrepid reporter Ritu (Kriti Sanon) in his downtime.
It is not that the film doesn’t have self-aware moments and jokes. It takes enough time exploring the trope of a corrupt police officer with a heart of gold and how the man is a beacon of hope for women – something that Simmba, Dabangg, Singham and countless others have shown in various troubling ways. Arjun, when he sees two men molesting a woman, ties a 3.2 kg load to their stomachs and makes them clean up the police station. He then delivers a homily about how their pregnant mothers must have carried the same load and that they should respect women. This is followed by him taking a picture of Sunny Leone without her consent and then doing an item number with her, as the film informs us, “for absolutely no reason”.
However, for a parody to work, the script has to be razor-sharp and the jokes even more so. What we get is, at best, half baked. After a bit, belches and stuttering stand-in for comedy and slapstick takes over. At 106 minutes, the Rohit Jugraj film is hardly a stretch but feels like it anyway. Ritesh Shah and Sandeep Leyzell’s script fails to rise to the occasion and Arjun Patiala loses its way between a parody and just another run-of-the-mill film despite its fancy graphics and video game treatment in the climax.
Spoof as a genre has rarely been tried in Hindi cinema and someone needs to crack that egg – heaven knows there is a lot waiting to be explored; Arjun Patiala, alas, isn’t that film.