Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

March 7, 2014

Mad House!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:41 pm

March 07, 2014

Cast: Ali Zafar, Yami Gautam, Kirron Kher, Anupam Kher, Sara Khan, VM Badola

Director: E Niwas

Total Siyapaa, directed by E Niwas, puts a nice little spin on the typical meet-the-parents scenario. Asha (Vicky Donor’s Yami Gautam) is a Punjabi girl living in London. When she brings home her boyfriend Aman (Ali Zafar) for dinner with the folks, fireworks fly from the moment her overbearing mum (Kirron Kher) discovers that he’s Pakistani.

It’s a premise ripe with comic potential, and Niwas mines the laughs in the film’s early portions. We’re introduced to Asha’s nut-job family that includes an aggressive younger brother who has it in for their Pakistani neighbors, a bratty older sister who shamelessly flirts with Aman, a precocious niece who walks around with a pillow under her dress pretending she’s pregnant, and a blind grandpa who waves around a loaded rifle, bragging about how many Pakistanis he killed in the war.

As if that weren’t enough for the already nervous Aman to contend with, he inadvertently drops a container of frozen soup from the kitchen window that lands on a passerby’s head, possibly killing the poor man, who may or may not be Asha’s father. Faithfully following the blueprint of the 2004 Spanish film Only Human, on which Total Siyapaa is based, that accident snowballs into a series of mostly contrived misadventures, including a late-night hunt for Asha’s dad (Anupam Kher), who the family suspects is having an affair.

The film doesn’t concern itself with the politics of the India-Pakistan conflict, and neither does it offer an insightful immigrant perspective. When it does rake up the prickly issue of prejudice, it does so in a tacky subplot involving a suspicious British cop who seems convinced that every South Asian is hatching a terror plot. Niwas is evidently more comfortable delivering a screwball comedy, and he does well on that count. A scene in which Aman and the blind grandfather are discovered in a compromising position in the toilet is laugh-out-loud funny. There’s also some inspired dialogue, like that funny exchange between Asha’s mother and her fiancé when the old biddy asks her future son-in-law if she’s indeed so unattractive that her husband might be cheating on her.

Despite the giddy pace, it soon becomes clear that there’s not enough of a story here, merely a string of gags. The thin plot is stretched out until it collapses under the weight of its contrivances, squandering a good cast, particularly Kirron Kher as the shrill Mummyji. Such a shame that the film’s central conflict evaporates conveniently and unconvincingly in a hurried, all-too-neat finale.

I’m going with two out of five for Total Siyapaa. Funny, but in a pedestrian sort of way.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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