An official remake of 2019 Malayalam film Driving Licence, Raj Mehta’s Selfiee pits a superstar actor against an ardent fan of his in a battle of egos. Starring Akshay Kumar and Emraan Hashmi in the two roles, Selfiee is a laugh riot that remains faithful to the original movie while adding some Bollywood tadka. And it is definitely one of Akshay’s better films in a long, long time.
Only a few weeks ago, we saw Ayushmann Khurrana play a superstar, Maanav, in An Action Hero, who gets into trouble when a youth activist dies during a brawl over taking a selfie with him. Maanav’s brother, a local politician, reminds him that he owes his stardom to the public, so if they want a selfie, the stars must oblige. Akshay, who had a rib-tickling cameo as himself in An Action Hero, has a role in Selfiee that’s not very distant from his real life — he plays a superstar named Vijay Kumar, who goes through a similar ordeal as Maanav, all because of a selfie with a fan.
Vijay Kumar needs to get his driver’s licence done urgently. But a misunderstanding with an officer at the transport office, Om Prakash Agarwal (Emraan Hashmi), sparks off a spat between the two. Om, a Vijay Kumar fan, turns against his idol and challenges him to get his licence following the usual process a common man goes through. Vijay is in a rush and with the two men at loggerheads, a full-blown battle of nerves follows, which then snowballs into a national issue.
The mutual love and respect that binds a filmstar and his fan forms the backbone of this comedy drama. Selfiee explores what happens when you find that the larger-than-life personality you adore from afar is no different from the people around you, that they behave like everyone else and can trigger the same kind of dislike and anger in you. Om swears by his idol Vijay Kumar and never misses his films. The walls of his bedroom are plastered with Vikay Kumar’s posters. His son imbibes this love too. Meeting Vijay Kumar is like a dream-come-true but when the man he looks up to insults him in front of his son in their first face-to-face encounter, Om loses his respect for Vijay right that moment.
On the other hand, Vijay Kumar makes it clear that he respects his fans and values the love they shower but will draw the line if this fandom turns opportunistic. Despite their bitter ego clash, which plays out in front of the entire nation, the two men don’t hold a grudge against each other, which becomes apparent when Vijay rushes to rescue Om from a mob on the rampage in the climax.
Selfie manages to hold your attention for the 143 minutes of runtime because of the sharp writing and witty dialogues. Unlike Raj Mehta’s previous film, Good Newwz (2019), where the comedy was more situational and text-driven, Selfiee rides on the performances of Akshay and Emraan, who make even the mundane look hilarious.
Selfiee is a nod to Akshay Kumar’s superstardom in many ways. The title track of Main Khiladi Tu Anari, a milestone film in Akshay’s career, plays during Vijay’s introductory scene. The title of Vijay’s blockbuster movie is Don’t Angry Me, a throwback to Akshay’s iconic dialogue from Rowdy Rathore; and Vijay calls himself a ‘producer’s actor’, much like Akshay.
With the help of humour, Raj Mehta has addressed the recent trend of boycotting Bollywood movies. In Selfiee, Om pays an online influencer to trend a hashtag against Vijay, while Vijay’s producer laments losing crores over the cancel call. In a not-so-subtle caricature of leading news anchors, Selfiee also takes a jab at the media for sensationalising claims without highlighting both sides of a story.
While Akshay and Emraan are the two pillars, several other actors also lift the film with their comic timing. Abhimanyu Singh’s act as the ‘serious actor’ struggling to produce a hit is a winner. Meghna Malik’s Vimla Tiwari, a self-serving politician, cracked us up with her tongue-in-cheek comedy. It is sad that Diana Penty (as Vijay’s wife Naina) and Nushrratt Bharuccha (as Om’s wife Minty) hardly have anything to do.