Imagine your mushy Soulmate—adorable and so meant to be… Then imagine her family—always in the mold of ingraining tension, stroppy moments, and just imagine, loathing your kind, your identity, and your roots! Torn between love and scorn, what could one do? The harsh truth couldn’t have been any harsher. Especially when you’re buried amidst this resentfully loud environment of meeting the family that matters the most, prior to marriage of course, and the charms of your Soulmate; odds aren’t too friendly and you’d have to put up with all the loudness, the briskness, and nerves, and the precariousness of the monumental pre-marriage complexes. After all, you’re marrying the girl and not her family, correct? Not so simple when it comes to the Big Fat Indian Wedding—all the more true, if you’re a Pakistani as we’re about to find out…
Aman (played by Ali Zafar of Tere Bin Laden) finds himself groping with the Punjabi family of Asha (played by Yaami Gautam of Vicky Donor) in his first meeting with Aasha’s family that appears to be headed by her super intense mom (played by Kirron Kher), her indulgent sister Jiah (Sara Khan), and the ape-ish brother Manav (Anuj Pandit). Already rattled by a nerve-racking breakfast serving the sweet couple of Aman and Asha, things don’t start off well, and that could only be a sign for more chaos to come, as the grand dinner awaits them at Asha’s home—a tad dysfunctional, but a classically muddled Punjabi family—eager to meet Asha’s mysterious fiancée. The only thing—they just happen to loathe Pakistanis! The awkward date with the soon-to-be in-laws amused by the clinical jinx of sociology—pretty much Total Siyapaa.
A loose remake of Only Human (2004), a Spanish-Argentine film by Dominic Harari and Teresa Pelegri, Total Siyapaa might not be total chaos in a strict since, but is a subtle comedy of errors comprising of a Pakistani boy socializing with a traditional Punjabi family. With the crazy family finding themselves in a trivial mess of marital discord themselves, the family eagerly attempts to ensure the prefect marital communion for Asha, as ironical as that would sound. The trivial plot of the movie and the overdone script poise the team with a difficult task of developing a blooming story, and bringing forward a movie with entertainment and panache. Not much to worry about that courtesy the brilliant rewriting of Neeraj Pandey (A Wednesday, Special 26), the movie plates a European dish reminding you of the glorious, The Royal Tenanbaums of Wes Anderson, although, not nearly matching its pompous storytelling and gung-ho direction.
Total Siyapaa revises the format of Bollywood comedies. Capitalizing on this revisionist sensibilities of Indian films, Total Siyapaa is much lighter, subtler and situational in comparison to other Indo-Pak romantic dramas. The conceptual frippery, with a warm ambience, makes it an inconsequential existential dramedy over a laugh-riot or slapstick comedy contrary to the title, Total Chaos. Director Eeshwar Nivas assumes the story with a splendor of rapid progressions of the plot, heartfelt humor accompanying the prevailing tension that slowly shifts from an Indo-Pak romance to a sharp family affair undergoing a comical crisis, whilst reaching its zenith just before the climax. The climax; hence, is underwhelming due to the undiluted tension built until the breaking point, where the story was begging for an electrifying climax, but instead receives an elusive, somewhat restrained closure. Perhaps fitting with the overall tender tone of the movie, the unique way of presentation of a much popular concept, especially coming from Bollywood—the loudest “wood” in the world—Total Siyapaa is a warm family affair built on the dichotomies of ontology and carried swiftly by stark personification of eccentricities and the much cherished art of complicating the nonentity.
The satirical intricacies revolving human society is a much observed and ridiculed phenomena that Total Siyapaa uses varyingly and with much affect. The character of the schizoid police officer, Percy (Steve Keef)—the clichéd Brit, and the hospital sequences with the medical practitioners groping in the darkness of diagnostics add a unique dimension, an erratic form of adulation, to the story—complimenting the jest of the spine in the movie. In essence, Total Siyapaa is a mellowed form of sarcasm reflected on the big screen—the entire movie presented as a diluted form of frantic absurdity of identities and circumstances, otherwise, within human control.
The performances are worth mentioning, with Kirron Kher being the epitome of a Punjabi mom mixed in her own riddles, yet handling the motions of the entire family. A competent actor in Ali Zafar handles his role with negation and is decent in enacting a character that doesn’t need much, except the subtlety, which is something he brings to the table. The character of Aman feels undercooked, which made it difficult for the actor to essay the role with a certain command, but Ali Zafar works well within limitations—for he really doesn’t have much to do, as a performer. Above all, Yaami Gautam, once again, proves her mantle as not merely a charming flowerpot, but a skilled actress much underrated and underutilized. While what she does isn’t bombastic, but is effective and convincing. Anupam Kher (playing the role of Asha’s father) doesn’t have a prominent role in the movie, in comparison, but of course, the veteran actor is as natural as natural can be, and his sequences with the escort is one of the high points of humor and the comedy of errors in the movie.
Coming from the Mumbai-based industry, the movie is a unique demonstration of the quirks of society, and contrary to previous movies of the genre from Bollywood, the comedy is somewhat calm, save for some occasions, and the timing of events are near perfect. With one thing leading to the other, and other simultaneously, the remake successfully transplants the essence of Only Human into the context of Indian Subcontinent localized in England. To cut it short, Total Siyapaa is different. The key word is different and due to its distinct style, it becomes a movie worthy of a watch—a perfect date movie or a family outing because unlike the name; Total Siyapaa isn’t totally chaotic but is curiously engaging with some peaking moments amidst some valleys, a thorough ride of family, tradition, and the nuances of being injudicious.