Laal (Dev) belongs to a strict house-hold where they believe in disowning a family member if he/she commits more than 100 mistakes. Laal is already guilty of committing 99 mistakes and he is on the verge of making his 100th mistake. Things take an interesting turn when Laal misses the train which his family has boarded for their elder sons wedding. He ends up spending the entire night on the platform, where he meets a beautiful girl named Nilasha (Nusrat Jahan). The film is a copyrighted remake of the 2013 Telugu film Venkatadri Express (2013). The same film was also remade in Kannada as Thirupathi Express (2014).
This Dev-Nusrat-starring road romance is a roller coaster ride in every form of transport from two-wheelers, to auto-rickshaws to a truck, to a train to a taxi to a police jeep to a bus! What’s more, the roller coaster moves so fast and is so overwhelmingly loud that if you blink, you stand to miss out on the action. Yet, that is no loss really because the story, scripted by NK Salil is as predictable as any Shree Venkatesh remake of a southern hit targeted at the mass audience in West Bengal waiting for precisely the kind of entertainment that is doled out from time to time. This does not really work every time as we have seen from the results in recent times but this just might hit the jackpot mainly because the film (a) makes no demands on your intelligence quotient, (b) takes your heavily loaded entertainment quotient quite seriously, (c) expects you to be waiting with bated breath for a Dev release as his political persona took him away from his work as an actor from time to time (d) assumes that you are a great fan of multi-starrers on the one hand with big names in the acting cast and also (e) of NK Salil’s one-liners that he democratically distributes among different characters instead of giving it to a single character, such as the hero.
The narrative of the film is pegged to the ‘100 mistakes’ factor fixed by the head of the extended family (Victor Banerjee), who is a modern Hitler in Bengali costume and speech but knows little about human behaviour, love, relationships and interaction except discipline as he understands and defines it. This gives the director and scriptwriter adequate scope to introduce characters every now and then filling up the screen with cameos that are very entertaining to begin with but jar on your nerves as the film moves on with song-dance numbers spilling over at other turns. Victor Banerjee does not have a very long role but he looks grand in that great grey wig worn over his bald pate and his impeccably stylish gear while Tulika while his asthmatic wife is forever adorned in exorbitantly expensive saris. Shaheb Chatterjee as the marriage-crazy older brother of Laal who mentally breaks into a fast jig at the very thought that his marriage is finally taking place at the ripe age of 42 does justice to the big break the film gives him. Rudraneel Ghosh who plays Keshta, the auto-driver who cannot drive unless he is filled with liquor begins well with his funny one-liners fringed with a terrible wig but begins to overdo his act after a point of time. The same goes for Kanchan Mullick who plays the passenger going to Siliguri for his interview and is a maniac of cleanliness who begins, punctuates and closes his lines with ‘Sri Sri Ramkrishna’ on his lips.
Though Dev is supposedly the protagonist in this entire circus-of’a-film, his characterisation is flat, minus layers of emotions because Laal has this dangerous habit of solving other people’s problems with his fists, his legs and his entire body and he also gets hurt from time to time and this is precisely the reason he has reached the scary figure of 99 in his encyclopaedia of ‘mistakes.’ The camera seems to be fascinated by his looks, his body and his action forgetting Nilasha quite often. Nusrat as the honest, bold and loud-mouthed beauty forever caught in a brawl with Laal is very loud in every sense – costume, make-up, voice and dialogue delivery. There is not much romance in the common sense parlance of cinematic romance because it is only in the end that the young pair realises that they have fallen for each other. The song-dance numbers fill in the blanks and add to the entertainment value of the film and keep time with the film’s mood and temper with equally loud music.
The Bengalisation of the original Telugu film is imaginative because it relocates not only the story by planting it in West Bengal and changes the names of the characters and the lifestyle of the Ganguly family entirely, but it also makes the right switches from the mangalsutra to the sindoor box which will definitely entertain the audience the film is targeted at. The mounting, the colours, the sets, the mounting, and everything else is so lavish that one is made to wonder whether this is a Yash Chopra production or a Shree Venkatesh one. The jet-paced editing leaves little room for aesthetic creativity and the camerawork is as loud as the film.
The running time of 147 minutes is a too much for ageing critics like yours truly considering the high pitch the film is rooted in. One must wait and watch to find out what impact this film has on the not-so-old audience. I could see my neighbours laughing a lot at the one-liners and one must concede that some of them were really funny and would have remained so had the quick repeats not spoilt the fun altogether. The running time is a big no-no even for an outright, brazen entertainer like Love Express where the express factor sucks up the love part almost entirely. Did this roller-coaster ride spill anyone’s brains out? Difficult to say exactly because a few began walking away after the interval while a large section stayed back to be part of the fun.
Did I say fun?
Bengali, Action, Drama, Color