I have said before, judging a film has a lot to do with expectations. To this writer, the names Akshay Kumar and Vipul Shah have lost a lot of credibility in recent years. Once the source of highly entertaining films, both artists have fallen prey to mediocrity in recent years. Therefore, for all its bright colours and glitzy style, I expected little from Action Replayy. And I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised.
The film cites a Gujarati play by the same name as its inspiration. However, it also draws a lot of inspiration from the classic Back to the Future. This film is also about a guy who goes back in time to unite his parents. Thankfully, it limits itself to inspiration and does not stretch to imitation. The subplots, the situations and the plot devices are entirely different. The film chooses to downplay the time travel aspects and concentrates on humour, romance and emotions, 70s ishtyle. The result is an entertaining film and a festive treat for the entire family.
The story: Kishen (Akshay Kumar) is trapped in an unhappy marriage to Mala (Aishwarya Rai) for 25 years. Their son Bunty (Aditya Roy Kapur) does not believe in marriage and refuses to commit to his girlfriend Tanya. When he meets Tanya’s eccentric scientist grandfather (Randhir Kapoor), he uses the time machine invented by grandfather to go back to March 1975 to repair his parents’ non-existent romance. There, he finds that the task may be more difficult than he realised as he faces warring parents (Om Puri and Kirron Kher), competition for his mother’s affections (Ranvijay) and a loser father.
Now, there is nothing really original about the film. It is as conventional as it gets. What makes the film worthwhile is that it tells its tale with great confidence, good humour and enough heart to make you care for these characters. Sure, there are holes in the plot from Bunty’s inexplicably modern attire in the 1970s to time travel paradoxes. Also, the music is relatively lacklustre; the film drags in the pre-climax portions. and is too convenient in places. However, it is bursting with such warmth, colour and copious amounts of pulsating energy that I found it relatively easy to overlook these. The emotional moments pack a punch and the humour is dished out in regular doses. It is definitely a return to form for Vipul Shah, the storyteller who gives us his best work since Namastey London.
On the look of the film, for anyone who has seen the trailer, it is foolish to expect accuracy in the depiction of the 70s in the film. The film is an interesting example of revisionism, looking at the past in modern terms, drawing inspiration from sources that today’s audiences use to understand the 70s i.e. the films of the era. It uses modern retro clothing, styling and draws from Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra rather than Gulzar and Hrishikesh Mukherjee. It isn’t realistic, and for its subject material, that is a good thing. To expect otherwise, is much like expecting factual accuracy from Inglourious Basterds. It’s possible but it would be a whole lot less entertaining.
In terms of technicals, special mention is in order for the art direction of Nitin Chandrakant Desai which is perfect. The costumes and styling are an interesting mix of retro and how we see retro. The background score by Salim Sulaiman is impeccable in adding to the impact at several points. Lastly, also worth mentioning is the camerawork which captures the vibrant colours and the scenic beauty with equal aplomb. It is a visual fiesta and each frame looks gorgeous.
In terms of acting, the film achieves two remarkable feats. First, it transforms Aishwarya Rai from ice queen to someone alive, energetic, graceful and lovable. She looks ethereal in every frame, in a way she has never looked before. At the same time, she is bubbly and vivacious, two things I thought she was incapable of. She manages to bring a theatricality that fits her character perfectly. After nearly a decade of sub-standard work, she finally gives a performance that is endearing and thoroughly enjoyable.
Second, just when I thought it was impossible, the film makes Akshay Kumar funny again. He undergoes a physical transformation to look as unattractive as possible. And yet, there is a sincerity and earnestness to his character that makes him instantly likable. He manages to make us laugh, cheer and quite firmly root for him. Aditya Roy Kapur is confident and leaves an impact as the son. Ranvijay and Rajpal Yadav are good. Randhir Kapoor and Neha Dhupia are left with half-baked characters.
Finally, Action Replayy is not, in any way, path breaking cinema. It is not even particularly intelligent. But it is a highly energetic, colourful and fun film with enough heart and humour to make you overlook its flaws and play along. This is not a film for retro purists or pseudo intellectuals. It comes as no surprise therefore, that Rajiv Masand and Mayank Shekhar disliked the film with some intensity. However, for those seeking escapism, this is satisfaction guaranteed.