Uday and Majnu are, as someone points out in Welcome Back, the Laurel and Hardy of goondas. They are, to again quote the film, “khule saand“: foolish, stubborn, ridiculous and flatter than cardboard cutouts. But here’s what may come as a surprise: they and Welcome Back are also really, truly funny.
Welcome Back is a straightforward, unabashed copy of Welcome and like the first film, this one wears its stupidity proudly on its sleeve. Just like in Welcome, Uday (Nana Patekar) again discovers he has another half-sister, Ranjana (Shruti Haasan). Majnu (Anil Kapoor) embraces her because any sister of Uday’s is a sister of his and within minutes, circumstances demand that Uday and Majnu organise a wedding for Ranjana. The reformed gangsters want her to marry a good lad from a respectable family.
Of course, nothing is simple in director Anees Bazmee’s world. As a result, Dr Ghungroo (Paresh Rawal) returns, offspring pop out of the woodwork, John Abraham loses his shirt, a mother-daughter duo of con artistes target Uday and Majnu, Shiney Ahuja suffers the ignominy of wearing a candy-pink blazer and Rajpal Yadav protects his and our modesty by wearing nothing but a transistor a la PK. Does any of Welcome Back make sense? Absolutely not. Is any of it realistic or credible? Only if you’re on a diet of nothing but hallucinogens. But who cares as long as Uday, Majnu and Ghungroo are being idiotic on screen?
Most of the film is so predictable — particularly if you’ve seen Welcome — that there’s no point recounting the plot of Welcome Back. In a nutshell: dons face dons, lovers are kept apart, cons are hatched, and hilarity ensues.
Abraham plays Ajju, a don from Mumbai. He is easy on the eye and inoffensive. Abraham doesn’t have much to do other than look good and flex his muscles from time to time so that at a critical point, Majnu can say of Ajju, “Lagta hai yeh gym mein hi paida hua tha.” (“It’s like he was born in a gym.”) Haasan, Dimple and Ankita Shrivastava all have significant roles in which they’re both flashy and forgettable.
Despite Bazmee sticking to his tried-and-tested formula, there are surprises in Welcome Back. However, fortunately, there aren’t any spoilers because no one knows what happens in the last few seconds of the film. The ending is somewhat literally up in the air.
But here are a few of the doozies that Welcome Back does serve us. Did you think there would be a situation in which you’d watch Naseeruddin Shah on screen and wish he could act more like Feroz Khan? Bazmee also throws in a scene in which Abraham gives a whole new meaning to the term “dry humping” when he leaps from camel hump to camel hump. No one could have seen that coming.
There’s a lot to love in Welcome Back if you don’t expect intelligence from the film. Like a sequence in which Uday and Majnu play antakshari with ‘ghosts’ in a graveyard (with neon tombstones, no less). You get to hear Kapoor singing “My name is Lakhan” after 26 years. There’s also a don named Wanted Bhai who gets a operatic chorus sing “Wanted Bhaaai” each time he makes an entrance. Just to bring this character home, his son’s name is Honey (played by Shiney Ahuja, which makes this role a double whammy of unfortunate names). And let’s not forget the desert chase that involves hovercrafts, skydivers, four-wheel drives, helicopters as well as a random train of camels.
Welcome Back a film that is completely aware of how stupid it is and delights in its idiocy. Bazmee also tucks in funny details for the keen-eyed, like Majnu’s art which is absolutely spectacular. We’re particularly fond of two of his paintings. One shows a horse on top of another (take that MF Husain) and the other is of the Dubai skyline.
Patekar is wonderful as the prone-to-rage Uday. He dances gleefully, packs many punches in his lines and is superb with the slapstick antics that Bazmee demands of him. Giving Patekar company are Kapoor and Rawal. What Kapoor lacks in the calibre department, the age-defying actor makes up for with energy and enthusiasm. As Majnu, Kapoor is dressed as flashily as ever (although Dimple Kapadia’s wardrobe in this film makes Majnu’s Technicolor velvet jackets seem almost sober). He doesn’t make much of an impression when he’s trying to be the menacing bhai, but he’s an excellent foil for Patekar. Rawal pops up intermittently and establishes yet again that he’s one of our most versatile comic actors.
These men are the stars of Welcome Back, but what makes them shine are the dialogues written by Raaj Shaandilyaa. This is Shaandilyaa’s first film and he makes sure everyone in Welcome Back, including extras, get lines that will bring them laughs. Some actors do justice to Shaandilyaa’s writing comedy and maintain an impressively silly tone, while some struggle. Regardless, the lines are funny enough to work despite the actors.
For instance, when a blind man gets a knock on his head and is suddenly able to see again, Uday tells Majnu that it’s pretty impressive how powerful Santoshi Maa is even in the deserts of Dubai. It helps that Patekar is the one entrusted with this line, but it would be funny no matter who said it. At another point, a gangster gives the girl he’s romancing a peck on the cheek and gets slapped. His minions explain to him, “Bhabhi ne aapko Emraan Hashmi samjha aur aap Amol Palekar nikley.” (“She expected you to be Emraan Hashmi and you ended up being Amol Palekar.”)
Unsurprisingly, after intermission, Welcome Back loses some of its steam. This is partly because Bazmee struggles to bring the film to a close and also because the director shifts focus from dialogue to stunts. The action sequences are outlandish in Welcome Back and boast of some of the worst CGI seen in recent times. It’s obvious that Bazmee has ensured the special effects are deliberately awful in the hope that they will draw laughs, but in terms of humour, they don’t hold a candle to the dialogues.
At 153 minutes, Welcome Back is just a shade too long and the ending is a sandstorm of stupidity. But you’ll forgive Bazmee and gang because for at least 120 minutes, this comedy keeps you in splits. Welcome Back might be 2015’s silliest film and this is the best reason to watch it. After all, when was the last time you came out of the cinema giggling?