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A loser

As the film nears its climax, Rani Mukerji’s character’s father cries out, “Yeh sab kya ho raha hai (What is going on?)”. He is not the only one baffled by Sachin Kundalkar’s Bollywood debut film.

Meenakshi Deshpande (Rani Mukerji) is a spirited middle-class Maharashtrian girl who impersonates Sridevi, Madhuri and Juhi Chawla in her dreams to escape her humdrum existence. In real life, she lives in a decrepit house with a family that makes the Addams Family seem sane. The Deshpande family includes a father (Satish Alekar) who smokes three cigarettes at a time and repairs old telephones; an overzealous and overdramatic mother (Nirmiti Sawant) who is obsessed with getting Meenakshi married; a 10th-fail brother (Ameya Wagh) who loves street dogs and a grandmother (Jyoti Subhash) who rides in a swanky wheelchair and flaunts gold dentures.

Meenakshi is surrounded by odd-balls not just at home but also at work. Maina (Anita Date), her colleague and confidante in the library of an arts college, has a serious Lady Gaga hangover and is called Gaga-bai by one of the characters. While Maina starts off providing some laughs in her initial scenes, her whip-wielding sexual escapade in the second half is cringe-worthy and will definitely put you off Lijjat Papad.

While her mad-cap family continues to parade her in front of prospective grooms and their families, Meenakshi falls in love and lust, at the first sniff, with Surya (Prithviraj), a gifted south Indian art student. Hypnotised by the scent of this man, Meenakshi spends most of her time sniffing and stalking the object of her fantasy; even learning Tamil while he remains oblivious to her fantasy.

While she is busy stealing Surya’s tee shirt from his home and bonding with his mother, back at home Mrs Deshpande finds a suitable boy for Meenakshi. Madhav (Subodh Bhave) is a simple man whose idea of romance is inspired by Deepti Naval-Farooque Shaikh films. As her engagement to Madhav draws closer, Meenakshi needs to choose between Surya, who triggers off aggressive erotic dreams of Dreamum Wakepum and Aga Bai or the tender, innocent life of Tumko dekha toh yeh khayaal aaya that Madhav promises.

This film is clearly meant to be a Rani Mukerji showcase but she is let down not just by Sachin’s vision but also her interpretation of Meenakshi. In spite of the frequent Aga Bai-s, Aiyyaa-s and Issh-s, Meenakshi remains an exaggerated caricature. Malayalam actor Prithviraj, making his Bollywood debut, has a purely ornamental role. He is expected to look good, and he does. Except for the songs, the lead pair has no chemistry.

Aiyyaa is an extension of Sachin’s National Award-winning Gandha (2008), a trilogy of stories that revolved around the theme of smell. It’s obvious that Sachin was going for a mix of Bollywood kitsch of the ’80s and ’90s, Pedro Almodovar’s women-centric films and over-the-top absurd, but it doesn’t work. At over two hours, the film gets tedious beyond belief. The only high points are Amit Trivedi’s tunes that are pitch perfect as is Vaibhavi Merchant’s choreography. Another plus for the film is Amalendu Choudhary’s camera work that brings the film to life.

Wakda in Marathi means twisted. Aiyyaa is wakda but not in a good way.