To recreate the bygone era and tell a parable of the former period is nothing short of a challenge and that's exactly what director Vipul Shah is out to achieve with his latest outing Action Replayy. Travel machines and time travel stories are no longer alien for Bollywood. We have had our share of movies wherein characters have either travelled into the future or into the past. In Action Replayy, one of the protagonists travels into the past because he feels that he needs to make an effort to correct the past and only then can his family live in bliss and harmony.
I'd like to clarify at the very outset that Action Replayy does not share any similarity with David Fincher's The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button , as alleged and discussed. However, in the same breath, let me clarify that the film does bring back memories of the outstandingly executed Back To The Future, a 1985 American science-fiction film directed by Robert Zemeckis. The only difference is that the character played by Michael J. Fox accidentally goes into the past, but in Action Replayy, the boy seems to be on a mission, like he intentionally wants to get into the past.
A light-hearted rom-com with a dash of sci-fi thrown in, Action Replayy should be viewed without really seeking much rationale or logic behind every action and reaction. If viewed in the same perspective, then chances are that you might just like this fare. Of course, Action Replayy is no perfect film, for it has its share of blemishes, which actually curtails its growth to an extent.
Bunty [Aditya Roy Kapur] loves his girlfriend Tanya, but runs a mile whenever she mentions marriage. His phobia with matrimony stems from his parents Kishen [Akshay Kumar] and Mala's [Aishwarya Bachchan] acrimonious marriage. But now, Bunty is in a fix. Tanya's grandfather, Professor Anthony Gonsalves [Randhir Kapoor], has given him an ultimatum - get married to Tanya or stop seeing her. Bunty knows that unless he does something fast, his dreams of living happily ever after with Tanya will bite the dust.
As Bunty's surprise party for his parent's 35th wedding anniversary deteriorates into yet another explosive fight between Kishen and Mala, he decides to turn back the clock and rewrite Kishen and Mala's destiny and alter their disastrous marriage into a romantic affair of the hearts.
And how does he do that? By using the professor's time machine to travel back in time. To a time when Kishen and Mala were not married... To a time when Kishen's father Rai Bahadur [Om Puri] and Mala's mother Bholi Devi [Kirron Kher] were sworn enemies... To a time when Kishen was a certified nerd, bullied merciless by Kundan [Rannvijay]... To a time when Mala couldn't stand the sight of Kishen and took great pleasure in ragging him silly.
Bunty has to transform his father from a wimp into an eligible bachelor and his mother from a tomboy into the epitome of feminine grace. Then he has to attempt an impossible task - make them fall in love with each other. And finally he has to make his grandparents agree to their love marriage.
Doesn't the synopsis sound really good on paper? But the question is, has the director executed the wonderful story idea with panache and have the writers come up with a taut screenplay? Let's attempt to analyze...
Action Replayy is the fifth film Vipul Shah and Akshay Kumar have done together after Aankhen, Waqt, Namastey London and Singh Is Kinng [which was produced by him and directed by Anees Bazmee] and it's evident that the two share great work chemistry. Also, I genuinely feel that Vipul's script sense is good, he likes to attempt diverse genres, exploring new territories each time he attempts a film.
When attempting a movie on a concept like time travel, it's imperative that the writing should be so persuasive that the viewer is influenced into believing that people can travel into the past or future. In this case, a little bit of additional gyan would have only enhanced the impact of the story, but whatever minimal is said about time travel in the film doesn't register effectively, besides the fact that the time machine itself looks tacky and tawdry and does very little in convincing you that this piece of scrap can really transport you into a departed era, 1975 in this case.
Also, once the protagonist reaches the former period to set things right for the family, it just left me wondering how it would improve his present scenario. Frankly, the screenplay writing is flawed and a few tracks just don't cut ice. The track involving Rannvijay is lackluster and least convincing, also the track involving the warring neighbours [Om Puri and Kirron Kher] is half-baked, the portions involving Randhir Kapoor and also Neha Dhupia are undeveloped and the climax [the long chase] is far from comic. The blame falls completely on screenplay writers Suresh Nair, Ritesh Shah and Aatish Kapadia for coming up with an unimaginative screenplay, despite having a brilliant concept on hand.
What really salvages the otherwise flawed script is the pace and the length of the film and of course, the performances of its principal cast. The film moves at a brisk pace, giving you little time to think, although I wish to add that if a couple of scenes from the first hour are deleted, the second hour would get a bit more impact. Yet, all said and done, Vipul Shah seems to have kept a strict vigil on the length of the film, not allowing it to over-exceed and making it less burdensome and more enjoyable for the viewer. However, the film is not a patch on his earlier works, especially Waqt and Namastey London. He's made far superior films in the past.
Pritam comes up with a likable score, with 'Zor Ka Jhatka' leaving a zor ka jhatka from the very onset itself. 'O Bekhabar' is soothing and reminds you of a Yash Chopra composition, while 'Nakhre' is catchy and hummable. Sejal Shah's cinematography is alright.
I'd like to make a specific note of Salim-Sulaiman's background score, which is amongst the best of 2010. The duo's contribution to the film is immense, since even an ordinary sequence gets enhanced with the right sound. The costumes and styling deserve brownie points, while the sets of the bygone era are realistic, except for the time machine, which, like I pointed out earlier, looks outright tacky.
Both Akshay and Aishwarya remain faithful to their characters and come up with winning performances. It requires a lot of courage for a good looking man like Akshay to look the opposite of what he is, with buck teeth and neck-length hair, and he carries it off convincingly. He's wonderful in both young and old parts. Ditto for Aishwarya, who enacts the over the top Mala with understanding of the character. Even the elderly Mala has been effectively portrayed by her.
The real surprise is Aditya Roy Kapur, who looks extremely persuasive as the demoralized and dispirited son of Akshay-Ash. He's fantastic. This act should open new vistas for the youngster. Distinguished actors like Om Puri, Kirron Kher and Rajpal Yadav come across as mere props with sketchy characterizations. They are under-utilized, but despite this, they give all their might and power to the roles. Rannvijay is least convincing, while Randhir Kapoor and Neha Dhupia are wasted.
On the whole, Action Replayy is a light-hearted rom-com that should be viewed without really seeking much rationale or logic behind every action and reaction. If you go with that in mind, chances are you might like the experience. A slightly dreary first hour, but a racy second hour with top notch performances makes it a decent watch this Diwali.
Director: Vipul Shah
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Aishwarya Bachchan, Randhir Kapoor, Neha Dhupia, Kirron Kher, Om Puri, Aditya Roy Kapoor