Cast: John Abraham, Anil Kapoor, Arshad Warsi, Pulkit Samrat, Ileana D’cruz, Kriti Kharbanda, Urvashi Rautela
Director: Anees Bazmee

When a film’s title so brazenly announces its sensibility (or the lack of it), any criticism about its nonsensical nature feels pointless. So Pagalpanti, directed by Anees Bazmee is just that – nearly two-and-a-half hours of brainlessness. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that Bazmee, who has also co-written the film, doesn’t try anything fresh or original. If you are going to make a mad film, pull out all the stops for heaven’s sake. Pagalpanti never does. Don’t get me wrong – it’s way too long and there’s a lot going on. But it feels like a lazier, cheaper, recycled version of Bazmee’s earlier films.

John Abraham stars as Rajkishore, who is the walking-talking embodiment of bad luck. Misfortune follows him everywhere. He can’t hold down a job for this reason, and any business he touches inevitably burns to the ground. One such failed enterprise in partnership with his friends Jaggu (Arshad Warsi) and Chandu (Pulkit Samrat) ends up with the trio deep in debt and left with no choice but to work for gangster brothers-in-law Raja (Saurabh Shukla) and WiFi (Anil Kapoor).

I couldn’t explain the rest of the plot even if I tried, because there isn’t one. Set for no good reason in London, this is a busy film, and every few scenes we’re introduced to new characters. There are rival gangsters (Zakir Hussain and Mukesh Tiwari) plotting to take down Raja and WiFi, there is an uncle and a niece (Brijendra Kala and Ileana D’cruz) in pursuit of Rajkishore for the money he owes them, there is Raja’s pampered daughter (Kriti Kharbanda) who falls for Chandu, there’s also Urvashi Rautela playing a woman whose job is to pretend to be a ghost in order to scare away trespassers from her boss’ property, and – believe it or not – there’s even a character played by Inaamulhaq that’s modelled on fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi.

For the most part the script finds the flimsiest of reasons to cram as many characters in a scene as possible. The jokes are pedestrian, and the gags have no novelty whatsoever. A chandelier falls on a character’s head, cars fly in the air, ram into each other, or simply explode, straight out of a Rohit Shetty film, and at one point, inspired no doubt from Total Dhamaal, that other brainless comedy from earlier this year, a bunch of lions wander into a scene. It’s clear that Bazmee will try anything. He even throws in a patriotic angle for what it’s worth. The stink of desperation can be smelt from a distance.

Of the cast, expectedly Saurabh Shukla, Anil Kapoor, and Arshad Warsi – all actors with solid comic timing – make the most they can of the mediocre material. A word also for John Abraham who sportingly plays along with the ‘lunkhead’ stereotype. In one bit, he rattles off a long dialogue without a hitch, even as others in the scene are visibly surprised and break into cheers. It’s a small moment that works because the actor owns the joke.
These are small mercies in an overlong, derivative film that fails to exploit the potential of what its own title promises. The madness feels laboured, where’s the inspired lunacy? I’m going with one-and-a-half of five for Pagalpanti.

Rating: 1.5 / 5