The reason why masala films tick to this date is because they have the power to entertain. I've often heard my non-film friends comment that cinema, for them, symbolizes an outing with their family. They want to be transported to a world of make-believe in those three hours and forget their worries/sorrows/trials/tribulations in the process. Yamla Pagla Deewana does that and does so most convincingly.
Yamla Pagla Deewana is a tribute to the cinema of yore. Every rule in the book that made hardcore commercial films major money spinners have been read minutely and integrated in the plotline of this one. Generally, movie makers often claim that their film is hatke, that it boasts of stuff that the viewer hasn't watched on screen before, but Yamla Pagla Deewana makes no such claims. It is old wine bottled and packaged in a new avatar.
What makes Yamla Pagla Deewana work? A variety of reasons, if you ask me. One, watching the Deol parivaar in one frame is an experience in itself. Two, drama, emotions and light moments are smartly integrated in the narrative. Three, the punches (most of them) are thoroughly enjoyable. Four, the entertainment quotient. Most importantly, it delivers what it promised in its promos: Laughter and amusement. It's a film that caters to the aam aadmi, who's keen on having a good time at the movies. It's definitely NOT for the hard-nosed critics or fakes who masquerade as champions of art house cinema.
But Yamla Pagla Deewana has a flipside too: The romantic sequences are a bore and the music, barring the title track and Charha De Rang, is a earsore. Even the climax fight is very, very formulaic. But, thankfully, the plusses outnumber the minusses by leaps and bounds here. The second half, to be specific, salvages the show to a major extent.
Final word? The fans of Deols, even those who had drifted away, are sure to lap it up in a big way. Triple masti, triple mazaa, triple magic... Go, get entertained without using your intellect. The film begins in Canada, travels to Banaras and eventually makes its way to Punjab. The father-son duo of Dharam Singh and Gajodhar Singh (Dharmendra and Bobby Deol) are the biggest con-men in Banaras. Their happy-go-lucky existence involves drinking and pulling off hilarious cons on unsuspecting people. The only hitch in their perfect albeit notorious life arrives in the form of Paramveer Singh Dhillon (Sunny Deol).
A brawny and honest NRI from Vancouver, Paramveer lands up in Banaras claiming to be Gajodhar's elder brother separated at childhood. The duo willingly accepts Paramveer into their fold only to exploit his muscle power to serve their con games.
Meanwhile, Gajodhar falls in love with Sahiba (Kulraj Randhawa), a beautiful girl from Punjab. As their romance reaches its peak, her brothers (Anupam Kher and company) arrive and forcibly take her away. Paramveer saves the day with a crazy plan to win the girl back for Gajodhar, which leads them to the rustic heartlands of Punjab.
Like I pointed out at the very outset, Yamla Pagla Deewana borrows from here, there, everywhere. You can draw parallels with Mirza-Sahiba, the legendary folklore that is popular to this date. Memories of Bunty Aur Babli and also Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge come alive while watching this one. The climax, of course, is straight out of 1970s cinema. In fact, writer Jasvinder Singh Bath makes it a point to offer the viewer a new punch every fifteen or twenty minutes. Of course, some are enjoyable, some aren't.
From the writing point of view, the first half leaves you with mixed feelings. The undercurrent of emotions is electrifying and how one wishes director Samir Karnik and the writer would've tapped this aspect, instead of wasting precious celluloid on the romance between Bobby and Kulraj Randhawa. On the brighter side, the action at the start - Sunny saves Dharmendra and Bobby from Johny Lever's goons - is dazzlingly executed. It's aimed at the masses entirely. Also, a number of comic scenes tickle your funny bone in this hour.
The film redeems itself in the post-interval portions. The graph zooms upwards the moment the focus shifts from Banaras to Punjab. The introduction of Anupam Kher's character, his assorted brothers, the sequence when Sunny and Bobby ask for Kulraj's hand in marriage, the arrival of Dharmendra and also Sunny's Canadian wife Emma Brown Garrett subsequently, Sunny's speech in English at the election rally... the fun never stops. Of course, the villain's track (Puneet Issar) is an obstacle and the climax fight, like I pointed out earlier, tries so hard to be funny. Also, the film could've done with trimming.
Director Samir Karnik has targeted the film at the hoi polloi and that segment of moviegoers would love his effort. In fact, the film has several mass-appealing moments that would either send the masses in a tizzy of excitement or make them clap in delight. However, the clap-trap moments are more towards the second hour. Writer Jasvinder Singh Bath seems inspired by the cinema of Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra and if one overlooks the hiccups in the first hour, his screen writing does justice to the genre of the film. The songs aren't appealing, except for the remix version of 'Yamla Pagla Deewana', the yesteryear hit and 'Charha De Rang', which is melodious to the core. Tinku Jiya should appeal to the front-benchers. The cinematography (Kabir Lal) is captivating; the lush green locales of Punjab are well captured on moving picture. Dialogues are well worded. The action sequences (Analarasu) are deftly executed.
Casting the Deols together is a trump card and their real-life bonding reflects delightfully on screen. Dharmendra is endearing and charming as ever. He enacts his part with effortless ease. Sunny is wonderfully restrained. The audience will love him as a sober guy and the ones who expect the brawny star to flex his muscles or raise his voice (the angry man persona) won't be disappointed either. Bobby is equally convincing, matching up to his iconic father and brother every time they appear on screen together. Kulraj looks beautiful and makes an extremely confident big screen debut.
Anupam Kher is outstanding. This is amongst his most lovable acts. Johny Lever is funny in a brief role. Nafisa Ali is graceful as ever. Sucheta Khanna is first-rate. Amit Mistry does very well. Mukul Dev should stage a comeback to movies with this one. He's too good! Himanshu Malik is okay. Puneet Issar is wasted. Emma Brown Garrett (Sunny's wife) is amazing. Ditto for the two child artists, enacting the role of Sunny's kids. Ajay Devgn's voiceover at the start sets the tone for the film.
On the whole, Yamla Pagla Deewana is a hardcore mass entertainer that fulfils the expectations of the aam junta. Those who love Deols will adore this one, while those who don't, won't ignore it either. The film works big time for its mass-appealing second half and loads of entertainment it has to offer. The target audience is the masses and it is this segment of movie-going audience that should carry this film to success. Business at single screens should be exceptional, while the film should set new benchmarks in North India (Punjab specifically). Internationally too, the film should perform the best in UK, U.S.A. and Canada.
Verdict: Three and a half stars