The Telegraph
Saturday , March 8 , 2014
 

Total Siyapaa

What’s common between a good steak and an inspired Bollywood flick? Both are rare. And Total Siyapaa is no exception even though it first appears nattily dressed, complete with a hero reportedly with a no-kiss clause in his contract and a chick with ohh-Aman on her mind.

That’s right, Pakistani actor Ali Zafar (Aman), who plays a musician cheek-to-cheek in love with Yaami Gautam (Asha), doesn’t want to be kissed or stripped in films, even in the name of professional hazard! Poor Asha is left kissing her hand, which often rests on the actor’s lips.

Coming back on track, it’s a cloudless day in London, just perfect for Aman to meet Asha’s balle-balle family. He hesitates. She is adamant. And he ends up before a gold-hearted, Pakistan-hating would-be mother-in-law (Kirron Kher). The other fauna and flora in the house? Asha’s horny (married, husband-fighting) sister Jia (Sara Khan), a stupid brother Manav (Anuj Pandit), a blind grandfather (Vishwa Badola) who is still nursing his 1971 wounds, and an ever-absent father (Anupam Kher).

Aman starts his outing on a disastrous note when Asha’s mom discovers his roots and just when he thinks it can’t get worse, he is asked to heat a jar of frozen pea soup, which accidentally slips out of his hands, through the window, and bang onto a bald patch… that of Anupam Kher, who is left unconscious for the first half of the film.

You know how it rolls, right? Well, you do if you have seen the Spanish-Argentine film Seres Queridos. Director E. Nivas (My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves, De Taali, Shool) doesn’t believe in playing around with inspirations. Sadly, neither does scriptwriter Neeraj Pandey (A Wednesday!, Special 26).

Keeping the plot tight in the first half is simplicity. The characters get introduced and none of them is allowed to hog screen time. Instead of rattling 20 to the dozen, Aman is restricted to a few jokes and facial expressions while others offer great support. And it was fine until the unconscious Anupam Kher remained, well, motionless.

When he wakes up with amnesia, everything becomes a fly-in-the-soup joke. He meanders off to a prostitute, mistakes her for his wife! Midway through a lap dance, he gets thrown out of the camper van and wanders the London streets without trousers.

Meanwhile, his suspicious wife arrives at his office at night and while she cries over spilt milk, Jia tries to cheer up would-be jijuji and gets caught by, ho-hum….

What begins as a straightforward rom-com with a sitcom feel becomes a trite exercise in giving viewers a masala film. Nivas goes overboard with the spices and, in fact, throws in a flawed subplot involving a doughnut-chomping bumbling London police officer’s suggestion of a terrorist attack. And this officer dares to muster up enough courage to speak like Mr Bean! The ‘sitcom’ sometimes even takes the shape of stand-up comedy when it talks about Shahid Afridi’s poor form. Hmmm… as if on cue, Mr Boom Boom is in fine form in the Asia Cup!

Working in Nivas’s favour, besides the LOL start, is that the story spans a day and much of it takes place in a typical suburban London flat, ensuring Total Siyapaa is not a tourism ad. Making the silver lining fatter is Kirron Kher’s perfect portrayal of an anti-depressant pill-popping mom who doesn’t know what’s going to hit her next.

Yet, this is no excuse why –– and even Aman points this out in the film –– pea soup should be served at an Indian family dinner attended by a Pakistani. Total Siyapaa has a Bollywood heart but a weak English stomach that just can’t process all the Indian masalas.