This is a sequel that has gone through a makeover by adding a second ‘Happy’ character to the first one played by Diana Penty. The film is set in China, and one idea that is repeated in the movie is that just like we Indians find it difficult to tell the difference between individual Chinese, so do the Chinese with Indians. So when the runaway bride, Harpreet ‘Happy’ Kaur (Penty) lands at Shanghai, she is mistaken for Harpreet ‘Happy’ Kaur (Sonakshi Sinha), who is a Professor of Horticulture. Erroneously escorted to her first lecture at the University, she is asked by a student about the future of ‘Bonsai’, to which she answers by saying it is likely to be short.
Meanwhile, the real Professor ‘Happy’ is kidnapped by supposedly deadly Chinese agents in three piece suits who report to an Indian Don disguised as a Guru (Denzil Smith). He ambles around spouting nonsensical aphorisms in Urdu, which are applauded by the locals with ‘wah, wah!’ At one point he tries to teach them the nuances of cricket by batting at the nets, but they applaud at the wrong moment, mistaking his getting clean bowled for a great shot – ‘wah, wah!’
To be honest, sidelining the Diana Penty ‘Happy’ in favour of the Sonakshi Sinha version is a bit rude. The spotlight is on the ‘new and improved Happy’, and the only time that the original one turns up again is at the end, when everyone is flying back to India. It was gracious of the actress to appear in this sequel to play a truncated version of her leading role. But frankly, the problem with both films is not the actors, but the absence of a good story and intelligent script. Since the India-Pakistan angle on the runaway bride story in the first film was not working too well, the makers, in their wisdom, changed the country and tinkered with the actors, but did nothing about the writing.
The Chinese stereotypes are actually more cliched than the Pakistani ones. Apart from being unable to tell faces apart, the characters in the film do a somewhat offensive play on single syllabled Chinese names. An Indian settled in Shanghai claims that he is now Chinese, and says that his new name is ‘Fak’. When asked his last name, he says ‘Kyu’. We get it.
Clearly, ethnic and linguistic abuse is all the rage, and it is ironic that while the visuals of China in ‘Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi’ depict a landscape that is spotlessly clean, modern and high tech, the Indian perspective on it is atavistic. Jokes about ‘hakka noodles’, Chinese hookers, and a rendition of the film song ‘Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo’ completes the picture. Hindi cinema has figured out that depicting people who look and talk differently gets a lot of laughs from an audience. Caricaturing foreign nationals, or even ethnic diversity in India, is thought to be a vital element of comedy.
Jimmy Sheirgill plays the same laconic businessman, cum political operator, who has lost his bride at the alter. His refrain through the movie is: ‘Ghodi chadh gaya tha main’ (I was riding the bridegroom’s horse). He gets a laugh each time he says it with a different intonation. He also has a farcical romantic competition with the new addition to the movie, a Sardar called Khushwant Singh Gill (Jassi Gill), who has fallen in love with the new ‘Happy’. When Khushwant introduces himself saying, ‘I am Gill’, Jimmy answers: ‘But I am Shergill!’.
The film has a few watchable moments, courtesy the deadpan delivery style of Jimmy Sheirgill, and an Urdu spouting Pakistani character (Piyush Mishra), a relic from the first film. But as a sequel, it is disappointing.