In a comedy of errors, the best and worst thing can be to have characters from different ethnicities. It, at once, gives you an opportunity to play with a lot of ideas considering how language barriers, value systems and ideologies of people from varied cultures can create confusion and hilarity. In another situation, and in lack of better writing, it can also get too repetitive, become racist in nature, and as a result also fall flat because xenophobic jokes hardly sound funny any more.
It seems to be the latter in the case of Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi, an extension of the comic drama and the sleeper hit Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016) about a runaway bride who lands up in Lahore, Pakistan from Amritsar, India.
In the film about mistaken identity, set in China, there’s another Happy (Sonakshi Sinha), a horticulturalist. She has reached Shanghai as a professor and on a personal mission to find the whereabouts of his runaway fiancé—a cross-dressing Aparshakti Khurana. Now, as you deal with Sinha’s Punjabi, which she is trying too hard to get right, you become aware that she doesn’t want the fiancé back. She just wants him to apologise to her papaji (Raja Bundela) for the humiliation he had to go through after his disappearance during the wedding.
But before she could proceed on her mission, a little mix-up has led to her abduction by a gang of goons striving to have a deal with a Pakistani bureaucrat Bilal Ahmed (Abhay Deol in the prequel) in whose house Happy (Diana Penty) from the earlier film had landed in Pakistan. This time around, both the Happys are in the same flight to China. The latter, with her husband (Ali Fazal), a Punjabi pop sensation, or as one of the characters describes—the Justin Biber (that’s not a spelling mistake, that’s how Bieber is pronounced by an Indian Punjabi, in the film at least) of Punjab.
To make the plot chaotically funny, more characters are a must. So, director Mudassar Aziz has brought in the over-the-top, hammy cop, Afridi (Piyush Mishra) from Pakistan in the earlier film. Mishra continues with his graph, sometimes going even overboard in a deeply un-funny way. However, what still remains intact is his tehzeeb (culture), and the undiluted Urdu. Another permanence is his repartee with Bagga (Jimmy Shergill), the small-time politician from Patiala who Happy had rejected in the last film. If his catchphrase then was, “card bantwa diye the”; this time, it’s “ghodi pe chad gaye the” after being kidnapped by the Chinese goons from his baraat. It’s interesting how Shergill has almost revived his career in Hindi films by playing the guy who never gets the girl. There’s even a few jokes on his situation. And even though, he has got typecast, it’s funny. Some of the jokes delivered by him, are probably, the only ones that land properly.
The other constant is Bagga’s fight for the girl, in this case Sinha’s Happy, with another suitor. So, we have a disillusioned Indian embassy employee, Khushwant Singh aka Khushi (Jassie Gill) into the mix.
The premise, even though illogical on many parts, is decent; the writing and the jokes aren’t. From a humorous take on India-Pakistan from the earlier one, this has extended to China. However, the China jokes hardly land. ‘All Chinese look the same’ is repeated over and over till the time that you can’t help but frown. Shergill’s another stock line, “yahi bhi sahi hai” wants you to go to him and shake him up. And then, there’s an effort to play with the name of one of the Muslim characters, Fuh-Q, who believes he is Chinese. It is so recurrent that by the end that his real name is disclosed, the fun is lost. So it is, overall too.
Film: Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi
Director: Mudassar Ali
Starring: Sonakshi Sinha, Jimmy Shergill, Piyush Mishra, Jassi Gill