Nicely juxtaposing such identifiable themes as a teenager’s desperation to impress a pretty girl, and a boy’s fear of his father’s volcanic temper, against the backdrop of a big fat Punjabi wedding, debutant director Ashima Chibber delivers a harmless fluff of a film in Mere Dad Ki Maruti.
Middle-class Chandigarh boy Sameer (Mujhse Fraandhsip Karoge’s Saqib Saleem) sneaks away with the brand new Ertiga that his father (Ram Kapoor) has bought as a wedding gift for his brother-in-law-to-be. He steals the car to look good in the eyes of the college siren (Rhea Chakraborty), who’s agreed to go to a party with him. But after an enjoyable night on the town when that spanking new set of wheels accidentally goes missing, he’s petrified of facing his dad.
This wafer-thin plot notwithstanding, the film is enjoyable mostly for its frills. There’s some nice chemistry between Sameer and his faithful buddy Gattu (Vir Das-lookalike Prabal Panjabi) who together make varied attempts to replace the missing car before Daddyji finds out. Their banter alone makes for some of the film’s funniest moments.
Chibber roots the film in an earthy ‘Punjabiness’, her characters routinely engaging in loud, boisterous behavior, carping and swearing with as much passion as they drink and make merry. In the film’s best scene, Sameer’s sister breaks into a highly inappropriate dance at her own sangeet, shocking not only the guests but also her fiance and her brother who watch wide-eyed in horror, even as her mother cheers her on proudly.
Plot-wise, very little happens in the film’s first half, and what happens post-intermission isn’t particularly remarkable. From replacing the missing gaddi with a test-drive model from the showroom, to making a deal with a local car thief, then even renting one out from a family of aged men, the story is weak and never quite engaging. More than once you’re consumed by pangs of boredom, and it takes the spirited performances of the two male protagonists to draw you into the film again.
The portly Ram Kapoor is splendid as Sameer’s penny-pinching father who’s always frothing at the mouth over his no-good son. Saqib Saleem is confident and uninhibited, and is blessed with superb comic timing, emerging an unlikely but charming hero.
At roughly one hour and forty minutes, the film never overstays its welcome, but if you don’t understand Punjabi, it would be advisable to take along a friend who does.
I’m going with three out of five for Mere Dad Ki Maruti. It’s light and easy, and not hard to like. Just don’t expect much more.