Saturday, November 08, 2014

The Shaukeens 

Dirty Old Men

The 1982 Shaukeen, by Basu Chatterjee was based on a story by Bengali master Samaresh Basu, and looked at male aging with a mix of satire and sympathy. Even Chatterjee hadn’t quite got the tone right, but had actors who could carry it off. The film was by no means a cult classic as the remake claims.

The 2014 version, directed by Abhishek Sharma is just sexist trash. In the current climate when women are fighting for dignity and safety in public places, it is so wrong to portray as cute, three old men ogling and commenting on women exercising in the park. At the same time, there is something sad about aging men living in a youth-centric and over-sexualised world, feeling left behind... and left out. It’s just that the sensitivity and grace required to make a film that can convey this social reality without resorting to crassness, the (re)writer (Tigmanshu Dhulia) and director of this film simply do not possess.  Worse, a film like this dares to be judgmental about its sex-deprived protagonists.

Lali (Anupam Kher), KD (Annu Kapoor) and Pinky (Piyush Mishra) are buddies, who are desperately seeking some action—one is a bachelor, another a widower, and the third has an over-religious wife (Rati Agnihotri, the leading lady of the old Shaukeen). So unappealing are they, that even hookers don’t want to be with them. (One wisely says, “What if they get a heart-attack.)

Bachelor KD says they must go to Bangkok which is “aiyyashi ki rajdhani.” The families of the other two are aghast, so they quickly backtrack and decide to go to Mauritius instead. There, they rent the home of the ditzy Ahana (Lisa Haydon), who is a very bad designer, a compulsive social media checker and Akshay Kumar fan.

In a needless departure from the original, Akshay Kumar plays himself, shooting a film called Ishq Kutta in Mauritius.  An over-excited Ahana declares  that she would do anything for the person who gets her to meet Akshay. So all three, in their own way, try to get to Akshay so that they could be the recipients if that ‘anything.’  Ahana is the hugging-kissing-bikini wearing “earth child,” which the Delhi ‘tharkis” interpret as easy behaviour.  The three, far from being misguided old men, are thoroughly obnoxious.

A strange sub-plot has Akshay trying to please a pompous art film director because he is fed-up of his own kind of repetitive films and wants a National Award. It may be self-deprecating for the actor, but is not in the least funny for the viewer.

The three actors are competent and capable of handling their roles, but The Shaukeens doesn’t allow them to add any layers to their sketchy characters.  It’s just one long leching session, with a few Akshay Kumar breaks.


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