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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Poster Boys, Review by Siraj Syed: The Half Monty

Poster Boys, Review by Siraj Syed: The Half Monty

Actor Shreyas Talpade’s directorial debut vehicle Poster Boys is a remake of his Marathi hit, Poshter Boyz. It also carries an elaborate scene towards the climax which reminds you of the British cult movie, The Full Monty (1997), wherein three unemployed men decide to strip on stage to earn some much needed money. Well, an Indian movie has a chance and a half of pulling off such show of skin on screen, either sex, so they decided to meet the requirement halfway, by doing a half Monty. Yes, we have half-naked lead actors paraded on stage. No big deal, but quite apt, considering the film is half-baked, some guilty laughs and a dozen insider jokes/references notwithstanding.

In Haryana, three men--Vinay Sharma (Bobby Deol), Arjun Singh (Shreyas Talpade) and Jaagavar Chaudhary (Sunny Deol) find themselves in deep trouble, when their pictures are seen on posters, identifying them as men who have undergone nasbandi (vasectomy/male sterilisation). Vinay and Arjun are married and have children, but Arjun is just about to propose to his girl-friend.

It happens to be the day when former army-man Vinay’s sister Anjali (Lovely Singh) is getting married to Sunil (Rama Ahuja). Sunil’s parents (Jaywant Raval and Urmila Sharma) call off the marriage, upset on seeing the posters. Hell breaks loose at Vinay’s home too, with wife Sunita (Sonali Kulkarni) and younger brother Anuj (Randheer Rai) feeling outraged. School-teacher Vinay’s wife Surajmukhi (Samiksha Bhatnagar) was yearning for a son, after giving birth to two daughters, and sees the development as a betrayal. Bachelor Arjun, a debt collector, faces the calling off of his plans to marry Ria (Tripti Dimri) because his would be father-in-law (Ravi Jhankal) cannot even imagine giving his daughter’s hand to a man who cannot father children. Fact is none of the three ‘boys’ had undergone vasectomy, but then how did the posters appear? Clueless, the three Poster Boys, along with two dim-witted pals of Arjun, set out to clear their names, come what may.

Sameer Patil’s story is inspired by a real life incident about three porters who found their pictures on a vasectomy poster. While that can be taken as true, I am sure gargantuan liberties have been taken, and the film version has plot points galore that the three unfortunate souls would never have contemplated, even in their weakest moments. Retaining Patil’s credit for story (he directed the Marathi version), producer Shreyas Talpade has brought in the comic writing team of screenplay writers Bunty Rathore (Golmaal 3, Dhamaal, All the Best: Fun Begins) and Paritosh Painter (Dhamaal, Paying Guests, All the Best: Fun Begins). In a different context, spoof specialist I.S. Johar’s Nasbandi (1978) was made immediately after the lifting of the internal national emergency declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975 a time when vasectomies for forcibly carried out, in an attempt to stem the population explosion in the country. Irreverent as hell, Johar had made the film on a shoe-string budget, and given minor roles to duplicates of stars of the era. Cut to forty years later.

Why settle for duplicates when you have the real men? Brothers Sunny and Bobby Deol are not the only Dharmendra (their father and star of yesteryear) connection. Again in 1978, Dharmendra had played a Sanskrit teacher in Dillagi, while Bobby is cast as a Hindi teacher here. Both choices are travesties, as Dharmendra reads and writes Urdu, not even Hindi, while Bobby too cannot claim proficiency in Hindi. Dharam’s love interest is called PhoolRenu while in Poster Boys, Bobby’s better half is named SoorajMukhi--both names stand for flowers. The ode to Sunny Deol, via his earlier films, like Damini and Border, and the dialogue from them, keeps runs through the film. Bobby’s mobile phone has a ringtone that was the theme song of his popular starrer, Soldier.

Upstarts and buffoons playing henchmen of goons, or members of deadly gangs is a trope that has had its run and fails to evoke laughter. Yes, the Harynavi dialect is a fail-safe bet, and when mouthed by numbskulls, sounds rib-ticklingly funny to non-natives, but Poster Boys goes overboard in milking it. Some of the puns and contrived rhymes will surely make you chuckle. Egged on, anticipating recurring responses, Rathore and Painter try to evoke laughter with every second line, ending up diluting the little genuine humour. This desperation is right in your face when they weave in a scene where the trio land-up at the home of one of the perpetrators of the ‘posterisation’, and encounter his blind mother (Bharti Achrekar), while he hides atop a tree. First she touches Sunny’s face, and thinks it is Dharmendra (!?). She is told this is the son, not the father. When the triumvirate say some unacceptable things about her son, she pulls out a gun and starts shooting at them, bindly! Funny in isolation, forced in the situation!

After interesting introductions, Shreyas Talpade lets his actors move from one ludicrous situation to another, making you wonder whether the film would have worked better with a length of 100 minutes, instead of the 130 it clocks. Poster Boys will surely be remembered as a fabulous public relations exercise for the Deol family, garnished with a gratis list of special appearances from Ajay Devgn, Parineeti Chopra, Tusshar Kapoor, Arshad Warsi, Kunal Khemu, Rohit Shetty (director) and Ganesh Acharya (choreographer, actor) in the climax. Talpade tries to manipulate you into feeling that Poster Boys is heading for blood-bath climax by having the Chief Minister (Sachin Khedekar) mouth bombastic threats and set out in an armed convoy, a ploy that would, if taken to its conclusion, turn the farce on its head, into pathos. Few would be swayed by such an obvious decoy, surely. Talpade’s penchant for comedy is apparent; his directorial talent less so.

As a man who constantly strives to keep his temper under control, and uses his muscle-power only occasionally, Sunny is a good piece of casting. He pulls off the ‘pouting selfie’ routine with élan, until he is made to do it the nth time. That his dialogue delivery remains at a monotone is unfortunate. Bobby has a much bigger challenge and strives hard to look his role, bespectacled and henpecked, in an optimistic comeback of sorts. (Incidentally, the film is co-produced by Papa Dharmendra). Talpade himself is competent as usual, although sometimes, when he and some of his co-actors keep holding an expression or move too long, you feel somebody should have shouted “Cut”. Sonali Kulkarni carries a sensual yet gentle dignity about her. Randheer Rai, Ravi Jhankal, Jaywant Raval, and some others just have to shout and fume, on demand. Bharti Achrekar has fun behind her dark glasses. Samiksha Bhatnagar goes over the top, with Ashwini Kalsekar cast as a caricature of a gynaecologist. Tripti Dimri is comely and Lovely Singh impresses in a brief role.

Ajit Palawat and Tasha Bhambra as Arjun’s companions-minions blend into their characters, and it is not their fault that they are cast as such. Sachin Khedekar is polished, maybe too polished. Murli Sharma as the Health Minister gets to speak one genuinely hilarious line. Bunty Rathore shows his acting prowess as a printing press owner. If you can’t have Sunny Leone, there’s Elli AvrRam (Greek-Swedish actress, Elisabet Avramidou Granlund, now based in India) as your item girl, the de rigueur song which offers three-digit pairs of female vital statistics to feast eyes on, led by a femme fatale, who taunts the viewers, with four digit counts of come hither looks, while some men do indeed come hither. ‘Kudiya shehar di’, from the 1999 Sunny Deol film Arjun (note the name; another Sunny Deol film was titled Arjun) Pandit is reprised, for the cast to gyrate to.

Slapstick, farce and spoof have worked well in many a film of the last two decades. It is when the premise is a real life misadventure that is transposed on to the screen as a romp that one starts missing elements like logic and defined characters—for example, can it not be established medically whether a person has undergone vasectomy or not? No such attempt is made in the film, which, if incorporated, would have made 75% of the present script redundant.

Suspend all disbelief and accept the insider jokes in Poster Boys as acts of distancing in the Bertolt Brecht model, and you might discover a blues-chaser. I tried, with strictly limited success.

Rating: **


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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