Somewhere, buried deep in the 135 minutes of Bangistan is a smart satire on religion. Two wannabe terrorists have a change of heart after pretending to be the enemy – Hafeez Bin Ali, played by Riteish Deshmukh, becomes Ishwarchand Sharma. And Praveen Chaturvedi, played by Pulkit Samrat, becomes Allah Rakha Khan. But reversing identities teaches them that we are not so different after all. In one, nicely done sequence, the two, pretending to be from the other faith, argue and quote from the Gita and Koran. Which of course makes them realize that no religion preaches hate and murder. The problem is usually the middle-men, who are usually, similar on both sides. To underscore the point, here the same actor, Kumud Mishra, plays both the Hindu and Muslim fundamentalist leader.
It’s a clever idea with a relevant message but the execution is bewilderingly inept. Debutant director Karan Anshuman who has also co-written the story, goes for a determinedly low IQ humour, which would be fine if the jokes actually hit the mark. But Bangistan is painfully unfunny. Karan labours to seamlessly move between laughter, tears, social message and high emotion. The film also doubles up as a promo for Poland, where much of it was shot. But this travelogue cum moral science lesson is too feeble to make an impression.
Which is such a shame because there are flashes of fun – so a bunch of Muslims in Poland wear T-shirts that say: Be calm, I’m not a terrorist. The enlightened Muslim and Hindu leaders chat on skype and the more tech-savvy Hindu one advises his Muslim counterpart to switch to Twitter so they can DM each other. And at one point, Allah Rakha avoids wishing people Eid Mubarak with a hug because he has a bomb strapped on.
It’s the right kind of silly but sadly there isn’t enough of it. Instead we alternate between satire, slapstick and sudden doses of sermonizing. At one point, Jacqueline Fernandez, playing the owner of a bar in Poland, starts to talk about why she doesn’t follow any religion. And soon after, they go dancing and sing, Saturday Night, full tight.
The one bright spark in Bangistan is Riteish Deshmukh who manages to be funny, sincere and eventually, even somewhat touching.
He deserved a better film.