Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi Review: Racism and Homophobia presented as comedy
Diana Penty has been replaced by Sonakshi Sinha for a sequel that is founded upon a comedy of errors thanks to the namesakes, but delivers only errors and no comedy
Arshad Warsi (verb) [transitive]: To sideline an actor/performer, who was an integral part of a successful, well-made film, in favour of a star or nepotism, once the film is converted into a franchise. In Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi, Diana Penty -- the original Happy from the well-received 2016 film Happy Bhag Jayegi -- gets ArshadWarsied out of her own film, in favour of Sonakshi Sinha, also named Happy, for a sequel that is founded upon a comedy of errors thanks to the namesakes, but delivers only errors and no comedy. This is a line from my review of Happy Bhag Jayegi: "It repackages this (the India-Pakistan quid pro quo between Jimmy Shergill's Bagga and Piyush Mishra's Afridi) into a neat little toffee, using it for flavourful humour here and there and never crosses the line." The sequel, however, crosses one too many lines. The first couple of minutes has jokes about the development of Pakistan and racist lines targeted at Chinese people. This is repeated several times over the film, neither caring about the unimaginable repetition ennui nor, more importantly, about the gratuitous racism.
Director: Mudassar Aziz
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Jimmy Shergill, Jassi Gill, Piyush Mishra
Aamir Khan has carved out a market for Bollywood in China and now everyone wants a piece of the pie. Therefore, Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi set in Shanghai. There is simply no other justification and director Mudassar Aziz probably thought they can pepper the all-Asians-look-the-same joke throughout the film. Not a great move if capturing China's market was your principal idea. They don't stop there. The offence list grows longer as the film progresses - there is racism, sexual and physical harassment on Afridi's part is turned into what Aziz believes to be comedy, and then homophobia joins the party for good measure. The first film regressed into an idiot plot only towards the end, when it became an actual chase and Aziz had to resolve the plot as quickly as possible. Here, the very premise is an idiot plot. The two Harpreet Kaurs could have easily met, one Harpreet - Sonakshi Sinha as the professor - could have gone to her university, her original destination. Khushwant Singh Gill (Jassi Gill) works at the Indian Embassy. And yet, his solution for Happy is to meet with a don and look for help in the best illegal way possible. Like breaking into a jail to meet a prisoner. Why? Because it is an opportunity to include a few more homophobic jokes.
The jokes that work are the ones carried over from the original film. A bit of Sunny Deol and another Yaara O Yaara throwback. The first film itself worked like a low key 90s throwback, a screwball comedy involving displacement and chases, with all the bad habits of 90s removed. Here too, Aziz begins a chase sequence in a Chinese market with the memorable opening of Yaara O Yaara. It promises fun, but Aziz does nothing with it. Much like this Happy set of films. The first film was a promise that good comedy is probably returning to Bollywood after decades. Then it regressed to a place of discomfiting familiarity. Not even a 90s earworm and Jimmy Shergill can save it.