Cast: Riteish Deshmukh, Pulkit Samrat, Jacqueline Fernandez
Director: Karan Anshuman
Buried somewhere deep in the 135 minutes of Bangistan is a smart satire on religion. Two wannabe terrorists have a change of heart after pretending to be the enemy — Hafeez Bin Ali (played by Riteish Deshmukh) becomes Ishwarchand Sharma, and Praveen Chaturvedi (played by Pulkit Samrat) becomes Allah Rakha Khan. Their role-reversal teaches them that we are not so different after all.
In one nicely done sequence, the two, each pretending to be from the other’s faith, argue and quote from the Gita and Quran. Which of course makes them realise that no religion preaches hate and murder, and that the problem is usually the middlemen, who are often similar on both sides.
It’s a clever idea with a relevant message, but the execution is bewilderingly inept. Debutant director Karan Anshuman, who also co-wrote the story, goes for determinedly low-IQ humour, which would be fine if the jokes actually hit the mark. Instead, Bangistan is painfully unfunny. Karan stumbles between laughter, tears, social message and high emotion. The film also doubles as a promo for Poland, where much of it was shot. Overall, the travelogue-cum-moral-science-lesson is too feeble to make an impression.Which is such a shame because there are flashes of fun — as when a bunch of Muslims in Poland wear T-shirts that say: Be calm, I’m not a terrorist. Or when the enlightened Muslim and Hindu leaders chat on Skype and the more tech-savvy Hindu one advises his Muslim counterpart to switch to Twitter so they can DM each other. Or, at another point, when Allah Rakha is forced to avoid wishing people Eid Mubarak with a hug because he has a bomb strapped on.
It’s the right kind of silly, but sadly there isn’t enough of it. Instead we alternate between satire, slapstick and sudden doses of sermonizing. At one point, Jacqueline Fernandez, playing the owner of a bar in Poland, starts to talk about why she doesn’t follow any religion. Soon after, they all go dancing and sing ‘Saturday night, full tight’.
The one bright spark is Riteish Deshmukh, who manages to be funny, sincere and, eventually, even somewhat touching. He deserved a better film.