Cirkus movie review: This Rohit Shetty-Ranveer Singh film is a comedy of disaster

The film looks so fake that a computer-generated baby elephant is the most realistic thing about it
Rating:(1.5 / 5)

​Director Rohit Shetty really likes mixing it up. In between every big, brawny action movie comes a brash, non-brainy comedy. There are no gunfights, explosions, flying cars, terrorists or hardcore social sermonizing in Cirkus. Neither were they significant elements in the Golmaal movies and Bol Bachchan. Yet, somehow, their impact is the same. I don’t have a preferred mode of voluntary Shettian brain-bashing, but I’ll take action films any day. As a critic, I can rant and rave about the pernicious politics of Sooryavanshi and go to sleep. But when a film insists on electrocuting you with dead gags and Sanjay Mishra’s insufferable anglophone, well, then, what escape is left?

Director Rohit Shetty

Cast: Ranveer Singh, Varun Sharma, Pooja Hegde, Jacqueline Fernandez, Murali Sharma, Siddharth Jadhav, Ashwini Kalshekar

Cirkus unfolds, like all Shetty comedies, in a glob of obviousness. The elementary writing and playschool set design convinced me I was stuck inside a nursery rhyme. Two brothers, Roy (Ranveer Singh) and Joy (Varun Sharma), run a family business in Bangalore. So do Circus-owners Roy (Ranveer Singh) and Joy (Varun Sharma) in Ooty. 'Roy2 and Joy2', as a doctor (Murali Sharma) explains, were two pairs of identical twins—switched and separated at birth by him to prove his theory that ‘parvarish’ (nurture) trumps ‘khoon’ (bloodline). He’s spent thirty years carefully guarding this secret from the world. However, on a trip to Ooty, Bangalore Joy is mistaken for Ooty Joy and Bangalore Roy for Ooty Roy. And vice versa. That’s it. That’s the setup. Rinse and repeat.

You guessed it – it’s The Comedy of Errors. The famous Shakespearean play has been adapted numerous times in Indian films—most popularly by Gulzar in his 1982 classic Angoor. Rohit, to his credit, adds a few novel touches to his version. The two Roys are preternaturally connected by electricity: while one, a muscly performer, can’t be zapped at all, making a show of it in his circus’s final act, the poor Bangalore chap is simultaneously fried by the heavy current passing through his twin’s body. The film is set in the 60s, so mobile phones and social media don’t trip up affairs. And there’s a small update, graciously included, to suit modern sensibilities: Joy in either case isn’t a slave or servant but an equal sibling.

Attempting his first-ever double role, Ranveer Singh is running with giants like Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Sanjeev Kumar, Dev Anand, Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan and Anil Kapoor. Since he’s playing identical twins, and since the fun emerges from them not meeting till the end of the film, Ranveer gets by fine. As a comic presence, though, he seems weirdly reined in, a shocking twist in his third Shetty film. Varun Sharma is occasionally involving as his bemused wingman, though nowhere as memorable as Deven Verma in Angoor. That’s like comparing grapes and oranges. The 1982 film even had funny roles for Moushumi Chatterjee and Deepti Naval; while Pooja Hegde and Jacqueline Fernandez are instantly forgotten as the one-note female leads.

Cirkus—which was shot on sets during the pandemic—is a visual and aural bore. It looks so fake that a computer-generated baby elephant is the most realistic thing about it. The film reiterates what a limited filmmaker Rohit Shetty actually is. He arrives with his usual comedy troupe—Mishra, Mukesh Tiwari, Siddharth Jadhav, Vrajesh Hirjee, Ashwini Kalshekar, Johnny Lever, Sulabha Arya—yet what’s the point if they are all playing slightly different versions of their past characters and getting called ‘chamkadar’ and ‘bujurg lomri’ in return? I was disturbed, not amused, by watching Ranveer and Siddharth Jadhav pull grisly faces and whip each other in the nuts. When nothing works, Rohit simply nods to his past films or pulls up his rickety 60s jukebox.

The twins are reunited. All is resolved. The penultimate scene is the characters sitting in a row and apologizing to each other. At one point, everyone looks to the camera and begs the audience for forgiveness...No, they don’t. In Sanjay Mishra’s voice - Just joking!

Related Stories

No stories found.
Cinema Express