Let me express at the very outset that I have known Karan Anshuman for some time now. I have followed his reviews and have often enjoyed reading his take on films. Needless to say I have found him pretty sensible and knowledgeable. Probably hence, I expected him to make a good film.
My disappointment would be hard to understand till you watch Bangistan. But that's precisely something I might not recommend you to do. It is going to be a hard one, you see, providing a perspective on this one!
To start with Karan seems to have drawn inspiration from another debut directorial venture - a film called 4 Lions made by British filmmaker Chis Morris. With a premise of 'terrorism comedy', Bangistan is a satire. It actually starts off on a very promising idea: the Hindu-Muslim divide. And to convert that into an entertaining fare is never easy. Especially, when your idea is to induce questions.
So we have two protagonists Hafiz (Riteish) and Praveen (Pulkit) - both religious radicals on a mission. Hafiz is an ex-call center employee who transforms into a rebellious Hindu, and Praveen is a 'bhakt' who transforms into an Islamic fundamentalist. And they both head to Poland to wreck havoc at a peace summit that the respective heads of their states will attend. Havoc these two fools do create; just not the type their leaders expected them to.
Like another fellow reviewer put it, while we were watching the film together, silly characters don't necessarily make a scene funny. The script needs to have substance. Add to that the writers force in a bunch of stereotypes - something Karan abhorred as a critic!
Riteish Deshmukh is arguable one of the best comic actors we have in Bollywood. And yet he seems to find hard to pull off the buffoonery required for this film. He does his best and so does Kumud Mishra - who does a double role. And you cannot but feel sorry for their efforts going waste. Pulkit is just about passable even as he continues to try behaving like Salman Khan. The boy quickly needs to learn that trying to be Salman isn't taking him anywhere. Jaqueline gets to dance a bit.
Of course there are some laughing points. For example when Hafiz insists on being strip searched... And for the ones who are keen followers on cinema, like the director himself, there are references to various cinematic moments and icons to make them grin.
Also there is a great scene when leaders of the respective extremist groups of both religions indulge in a debate only to tell how the other religion is full of goodness and how their religious books are so often misread to spread hatred.
But that's never enough. Karan and his team fail to create a screenplay that engages. They did have a grand idea. Karan fails to transform that into a convicting film. And oh the climax... so avoidable! Tragedy!
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