Bollywood, Rajkumar Santoshi (Ajab Prem…, Andaz Apna Apna, Ghayal, Damini), and Tips Industries (Ajab Prem…, Race 2, Tere Naal…, Kismat Konnection): what is your first reaction? You would not be off track if the first stream of imagination comprised of mindless, wacky scenes—over the top, hilarious moments, a loose plot, not much in terms of story, and decent acting here and there. Recent movies from Tips and Rajkumar Santoshi suggest such at the very least. When you put them under the Mumbai-based umbrella of movies, the answer would be as inane, perhaps in a good way, as the title of this movie itself, Phata Poster Nikhla Hero!
Santoshi presents Shahid Kapoor (Vivah, Jab We Met, Kaminey) and Ileana d’Cruz (Barfi) in a film with methodologies dating back to the family era of the 80s and early 90s—revisiting Bollywood airy morals and ethics, in a very filmy way! Perhaps that is what one expects from Rajkumar Santoshi these days and if Ajab Prem… (2009) stands as the benchmark, Phata Poster… could be another triumphant victory for the versatile and the easy-going director.
A story about a film buff who dreams of being an actor, a hero someday along the lines of the legendary Khans, Vishwas Rao (Shahid Kapoor) has a mother (Padmini Kolhapure) too idealistic. Strict in principles, she wishes for her adorable son to become a policeman someday. Vishwas’ dreams of becoming an actor and his mother’s wish for her son to serve the nation takes Vishwas to Mumbai where he meets plenty of aspiring actors, few filmmakers, loads of thugs and goons, and the prettiest social worker in town, Kajal (Ileana d’Cruz). Turning sides from one end to the other, the movie takes many turns, many times as Vishwas finds himself amidst the deadly operation called White Elephant and this wanna-be film hero has to be a real life hero now, and face the wrath of White Elephant—all of this 80s Bollywood eshtyle!
Phata Poster… utilizes the ingredients filmmakers did during an era of melodramatic, family dramas. Focusing on simple, yet high-principled mothers, stunningly beautiful, yet unintelligently naïve fiancés, goofy and distinctive sidekicks, hilarious villains and comic officials, and at the end—strange, sometimes comedic and other times emotional circumstances—such movies bring all of them together and explode in the climax. Precisely with Phata Poster…, Santoshi revisits the mindless era of movies, creates a blend from Dabbang (2010), Ajab Prem…, and Suhaag (1979) among many other movies, and pays homage to typical masala Indian Cinema of the lore. In essence, the movie is just that—crazy humor with loud sequences, fussy in drama, over the top action scenes, heavily inspired from Inspector Chulbul Pandey, and the reflection of the clean heartedness, sacred upbringing of the protagonist.
This item of a movie includes spices in a spicy dose, and in the first portion; it serves one fairly delicious dish—filled with comedy, parody, and humor. Entertaining to watch and hilariously presented, Phata Poster… is a thorough entertainment ride in the first half—just before the intermission. It is at that moment, just before the intermission, where Santoshi loses his firm grip over the audiences and the movie slips from what was an engaging comic riot to a more melodramatic, value-oriented movie—consequently, suffering in terms of story transition and becoming less entertaining as the movie progressed, ultimately culminating with a weak climax.
The second half is not bad, but the movie drops in momentum and slides towards the typologies that end up obstructing the subtle flow and sense of humor the movie had in the first half. The various clichés, some hilarious, some outright lame, drags the movie down and it ends up transpiring as an average film, with nothing much to talk about, except some superbly designed laughter scenes, amusing dialogues, and the nostalgic charms of watching a Rajkumar Santoshi movie.
For what it is, Phata Poster Nikhla Hero is hot and cold. The movie has actors delivering decent performances, although Ileana d’Cruz does not have much of a role to exhibit her acting skills. Whatever little she does, she comes off rather too loud and almost unnecessarily animated. Not much was required from Shahid per se, but he carried his role decently, although he has this habit of hamming in emotional scenes and going hysterical in lighter moments. Padmini Kohlapure makes a sort of comeback and does what she did best in her prime—worry, be emotional, cry some bit, and sway along with her sentiments. It was refreshing watching her in a typical Indian motherly role—something that has been lacking in movies these days.
On an average, Phata Poster Nikhla Hero is very average. Filled with funny moments and dull scenes, it’s a mixed bag. Depending on what you want, it could be acceptable as a mindless entertainer or an outright embarrassment for those in search of good cinema.