"Dum hai, Boss!" - the perky young Miss Congeniality in David Dhawan's 'Chashme Baddoor', a far cry from the shastriya sangeet trainee tutti fruti-eating Deepti Naval in Sai Paranjpye's film, exclaims whenever she is impressed by her loverboy's dialogue-baazi. Exclamation marks are the only punctuations in this seamless comedy of courtship played at an impossibly high octave, without getting shrill.
'Farce' things first. Barring the core theme of two friends maliciously nipping the third friend's romance in the bud, and some mischievous sequences and characters from the original, which have been entirely re-interpreted as 'swines of the times', Dhawan's 'Chashme Baddoor' is far(ce) removed from Paranjpye's original. Those were days of relative innocence. Whistling at girls at bus stops, chasing unwilling girls to their homes, and landing up at their doorstep under assumed identities were all considered innocuous bachelor bacchanalia. In Paranjpye's 'Chashme Buddoor' it was a big deal that Rakesh Bedi managed to get into Deepti Naval's bathroom pretending to be a plumber. In Dhawan's film, the very gifted Divyendu Sharma, who plays Bedi's part, just can't pretend to know the perky girl next-door intimately by her bathroom decor. He manages to take a picture of a tattoo on her waist to convince his love-smitten pal Sid (Ali Zafar) that the girl is... well, not chaste but quite a 'chalu cheez'.
While the writing gets 'chalu', it miraculously steers clear of being cheesy by a wide margin. Under the veneer of vicious courtship games played by two desperately single guys, Dhawan's 'Chashme Baddoor' retains a core of innocence. A tongue-in-cheek virtuosity remains the film's greatest triumph. Sajid-Farhad's writing is wild, naughty and witty, but never vulgar. The whimsical word-play flows from a tap-dance of prankish internet-styled banter which is border-line silly but nonetheless very engaging in an off-handedly smart way. If anything, the repartees flow much too furiously. From Anupam Kher's slap-happy mother Bharati Achrekar (effortly replacing Leela Mishra from the original) to Goan cafe owner Rishi Kapoor's unidentifiable assistant - everyone is a certifiable quipster in the new film.
Among the three protagonists, Divyendu, playing an awful self-styled shaayar, gets the most tawdry lines of bumper-sticker wisdom, which the actor delivers with such punctuated panache, we can't help guffawing out our implicit 'irshaad'. Comic timing is of vital importance to this film. And every actor gets it right, dead-on sometime dead-pan. To me, the film's most natural-born scenestealer is the southern star Siddharth. Seen lately in Deepa Mehta's 'Midnight's Children', Siddharth nails his character's filmy flamboyance. Many would say Siddharth has gone over the top. But to sustain that high-pitched level of crazy energy throughout the film is no laughing matter. Or, on second thoughts, this talented actor's performance is indeed a laughing matter. Ali Zafar is far more sober and controlled than his co-stars. It takes some doing to remain steadfast in your stipulated sobriety while all your co-stars pull out all stops. The laughs, so refreshingly liberated of lewdness flow almost non-stop.
Adding a dollop of spice to the original script is an entirely unscheduled love angle between Rishi Kapoor and Lilette Dubey. Lallan Miya (Saeed Jaffrey), who played Rishi's character in Paranjpye's film would have loved that. Outstanding both, Kapoor and Dubey make their onscreen romance look warm, cuddlesome and credible. Audaciously, Dhawan and his writer Sajid-Farhad have transferred the celebrated 'chamko' detergent demonstration-sequence between Farooque Sheikh and Deepti Naval in Sai Paranjpye's film to the Rishi-Lilette characters.
Maybe the writers saw this pair's chemistry to be more frothy and foamy than the central romance? Ali Zafar's courtship of the vivacious Taapsee Pannu is relatively 'thanda'. One reason for their frosty compatibility is Ali Zafar's reined-in performance. He deliberately plays his part a few octaves lower than his loud co-stars who are so hyper-strung that you sometimes wonder which drugs they are on. This 'Chashme Baddoor' moves wickedly at its own volition creating a crazy pattern of comic chaos that stops short of being anarchic due to the finely-tuned situational satire simulated in the writing out of a material that was created 30 years ago when there were no mobile phones and the height of male voyeurism was the Playboy magazine.
Dhawan's film doesn't take the characters' contemporary courtship games into areas that would offend the moralists. He knows where to stop. Just when my faith in remakes had been shaken by 'Himmatwala' last week, David Dhawan had me shaking with laughter this week. Carry on, Mr. Dhawan. David Dhawan's new-age interpretation of the 1981 film moves far away from the original creating for itself a new pathway of laughter and hilarity without showing any disrespect to the source material. Ali, Divyendu and Siddharth's audacious antics, with Rishi Kapoor and Lilette Dubey's age-defying romance thrown in for added measure, make the trio of girl-crazy heroes in Paranjpye's film look like angels.
This is David Dhawan's wickedest comedy of one-upmanship since 'Mujhse Shaadi Karogi'. You can't miss it. The attention-grabbing chest-thumping gibberish-spewing rowdy boyz won't let you. Dum hai, Boss!