Humour is a weapon more potent than we care to admit. And what better way to counter war than to make fun of it.
The film reminded me of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964), a classic, also revolving around a potential nuclear attack. Though in completely different leagues, both films aim to send out a message through the powerful weapon of humour.
War Chhod Na Yaar starts with a sinister plot to ignite a war between India and Pakistan. The countries encouraging the war (America and China) stand to gain extensively from it. This news of the surprise war is given in advance by a politician (Dalip Tahil) to a journalist (Soha Ali Khan). The idea is to film him at the border and relay the news as “live” when the war breaks out.
At the border, the unsuspecting Indian soldiers welcome the pretty journalist. Through her eyes, we see the easy camaraderie between Indo-Pak soldiers. The film tries to be fair, but is skewed towards the Indian hero (Sharman Joshi), versus the Pakistani goofy, yet good-hearted captain (Jaaved Jaaferi). But honestly, the Pakistani captain has the best lines and is more interesting than our self-serious Indian bloke.
The Pakistani prime-minister and the military general (a video-game playing bully) try brokering the deal with China while the Indian politician is busy asking America for a commission.
When the war does break out, young people from across the border discuss it on the internet. For some reason, most of these kids are lazing on the bed and making obvious remarks. One of them starts an online group called ‘War Chhod Na Yaar’ that mirrors the sentiments of people across borders.
Now the whole point of the film is an anti-war message brought forth by soldiers talking about the futility of war. That debut director Faraz Haider manages to communicate this very important message while cloaking it in humour, is admirable.
And humour is there to delight you throughout. The Chinese President wearing a blingy translator gadget that makes him speak Punjabi will crack you up. And even more funnily, the gadget gives up on him in the end, making a statement about the quality of China-made things.
A game of Antakshari played between the two borders, leads to a hilarious finale. A bomb has ‘NewClear’ written on it, leading a soldier to remark that the bomb has a shampoo-type name.
A satire rests as heavily on the writing as it does on the execution and performances. Haider’s writing is assured, but loses track every once in a while. The shuttling between satire and slapstick isn’t very smooth either. But to pull off comedy is no laughing matter, and the film cracks you up more often than not.
The film doesn’t bother digging deep, and prefers to give an instant solution to an instant problem. So the Indian lead pair veers on being preachy and boring; their romance proving to be even more cumbersome. The youngsters on either side think and behave exactly the same with NO exception. The finale is sorted in no time.
Performances vary. Sharman Joshi is serviceable, but adds little nuance (there was so much scope considering it’s a satire). That’s also because of the strait-jacketed characterization. Soha is more exuberant, and her character also gets more leeway.
It’s up to the peripheral characters then, to hold fort. Jaaved Jaaferi, Sanjay Mishra, Dalip Tahil (playing four characters), Manoj Pahwa and Mukul Dev are outrageously fun!
War Chhod Na Yaar claims to be India's first war comedy. It certainly is a film that makes you both laugh and think. The execution may not have the finesse of a big-budget film, neither does it have the A-list stars. And yet, it’s one of the better films to have come out this season. Watch.
Rating: 3 Stars