Happy Bhag Jayegi shares virtually nothing by way of DNA with the Julia Roberts starrer Runway Bride, although in both films the plot is set into motion after the female protagonist, a bride-to-be, makes a dash for it on her wedding day. Treating that idea as merely a starting point, writer-director Mudassar Aziz constructs a winning premise.
Not particularly thrilled about spending the rest of her life with thuggish local corporator Daman Singh Bagga (Jimmy Shergill), Amritsar girl Happy (Diana Penty) leaps into a fruit truck that will take her to her lover, good-for-nothing Guddu (Ali Fazal), with whom she plans to elope. But she ends up in a wrong truck headed to Lahore, and finds herself in the home of a Pakistani diplomat, whose son Bilal Ahmed (Abhay Deol) is horrified at how this is going to look.
This premise is ripe with potential and the filmmakers maintain a light and breezy tone throughout. The laughs come fast and frequent in the first half as we watch the chaos that ensues on either side in the wake of this incident. Back home in Punjab, Guddu doesn’t know where his girl has vanished, and Bagga is mad at having been stood up. Meanwhile in Pakistan, Bilal, who is being groomed to become “the next Jinnah”, volunteers to help Happy reunite with Guddu so he can get her off his back.
The film is co-produced by Anand L Rai, and like his Tanu Weds Manu movies, Happy Bhag Jayegi benefits from crackling dialogue and colorful supporting characters who often steal the scene from the principals. Piyush Mishra, playing a bumbling Pakistani cop and a sort of sidekick to Bilal, gets some of the film’s best lines and funniest moments like when his chaste Urdu raises Bagga’s hackles.
But the film loses some of its steam post intermission when the comedy takes a backseat to high-strung melodrama and contrived emotional subplots. The suggestion of a love triangle involving Bilal never rings true, and the climax feels rushed and a tad convenient.
Although the film gets its title from its female protagonist, Happy is frankly the least compelling of the film’s characters. It’s an underwritten part and one that feels superficial and strictly surface level. Doesn’t help that Diany Penty is easy on the eyes, and while she definitely tries she doesn’t have the muscle to scratch beneath the surface and get under the skin of the character.
The men do most of the heavy lifting here, and they each get their moment to shine. Ali Fazal nicely conveys the restlessness of a separated lover, and Abhay Deol knows how to make a joke land. But it’s Jimmy Shergill who’s terrific as the lunkheaded Bagga in a part that echoes his character in the Tanu Weds Manu movies.
Clocking in at a little over two hours, Happy Bhag Jayegi is mostly fun despite its shortcomings, because the humor is earned. The jokes are mined from the characters and the scenarios they find themselves in; they’re never merely slapped onto the narrative like in so many films. It’s far from perfect, but it’s unlikely you’ll be bored.
I’m going with three out of five.