Happy Bhag Jayegi is a sweet, slender story stretched to snapping. The runaway bride saga starts out frothy and fun but post-interval, the energy and humor take a nosedive. By the time Happy is united with her prince charming, you are long past caring.
Don’t accuse me of spoilers – you know going in that this story will end with a smile. Happy Bhag Jayegi is not the type of film in which the mood sours. Director and writer Mudassar Aziz keeps it light and sunny – even when Happy is kidnapped by goons in Pakistan. She’s gagged and bound in a warehouse but there isn’t a hint of danger.
Happy herself seems like a long-lost cousin of Geet from Jab We Met – you know the chatty, aggressive, demanding Punjabi girl who is determined to get her away. When Happy’s father insists on marrying her to the local corporator, she promptly runs away. Except that she escapes in the wrong truck and lands up in Lahore. She emerges from a basket at the house of the ex-governor who is ferociously training his reluctant, cricket-loving son to be the next Jinnah. Bilal, subdued and subservient must now find a way to keep Happy a secret and send her back to India.
Happy Bhag Jayegi has been co-produced by filmmaker Aanand L. Rai. The film echoes Aanand’s Tanu weds Manu franchise. A strong, obstinate woman drives the narrative and poor Jimmy Shergill is one again, ditched at the altar. But those narratives had more heft because Aanand skillfully blended humor with emotion. And Kangana Ranaut’s National Award-winning performance helped to camouflage the plot holes. Here, Mudassar creates some sparkling comic moments but he is unable to ground the story emotionally. Bilal’s struggle to find his voice, his longing for the free-spirited Happy and his own compromised relationship with his fiance doesn’t have enough weight to make you care. It was nice though to have Abhay Deol onscreen again. We’ve seen him do similar roles before in films like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. But he has an ease and charm that makes these affluent, conflicted characters persuasive.
Diana Penty is attractive enough but she doesn’t have the acting chops to pull off an entire film. Mudassar also raises the bar impossibly high. Most men in this film are in love with Happy. Characters refer to her as karoron mein ek and even – believe it or not – Madhubala. That’s a heavy cross for any actress to bear. How many women, in the history of Indian cinema, can stand up to that comparison?
The brightest spot in Happy Bhag Jayegi is Piyush Mishra playing a fastidious, India-phobic Pakistani cop. Usman Afridi has impeccable Urdu diction and inept detection skills. His weary, befuddled expression put a smile on a face.
I wish the rest of the film matched his eccentric, genial comic energy. I’m going with two stars.