If you’re willing to set your expectations accordingly, there’s some fun to be had in the low-IQ comedy, Phata Poster Nikhla Hero, particularly in the film’s breezy first half. Shahid Kapoor stars as Vishwas Rao, a small-town fella who’s grown up nursing dreams of becoming a movie star. However, his autorickshaw-driver mum (Padmini Kolhapure) wants him to be an honest police officer instead. On the pretext of seeking admission in a police academy, Vishwaas moves to Mumbai and pursues his acting ambitions. But then he’s mistaken for a cop by an over-zealous social worker (a screechy Ileana D’cruz), and he’s forced to play along when his mum decides to visit.
Shahid Kapoor, in very good form, delivers laughs fast and frequent, displaying an as-yet-unseen flair for physical comedy. He’s terrific in a scene where he shows up for recruitment in the police force, pretending to suffer from multiple birth ailments. I also particularly enjoyed a scene in which he loses his cool with a film director who turns him away coldly. There are some interesting characters too, like Saurabh Shukla’s Gundappa, a don who misses the good ol’ days when you could pay off cops and rest assured that they’d protect you. Sanjay Mishra gets some good lines as Jogi, an unsuccessful scriptwriter and patron saint of struggling actors.
But writer-director Rajkumar Santoshi fails to stick with this cheerfully harebrained tone in the film’s second half, going instead for a sappy maa-beta emotional conflict, and a clunky subplot involving a mysterious villain who plans to blow up the city using biochemical bombs. The twists are predictable here, the climatic action scene recycled from Santoshi’s own Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, and even the ambition-throttling message of this movie is questionable.
Look out for a scene-stealing cameo by Salman Khan, who mentions Santoshi’s Andaz Apna Apna which he’d starred in. This film has its moments, but it’s light years away from that gem.
I’m going with two out of five for Phata Poster Nikhla Hero. It loses steam at the halfway mark when the laughs suddenly dry up.