Not faltu enough. Sigh!
Director: Remo D’Souza
Actors: Jacky Bhagnani, Chandan Roy Sanyal
Few titles express public sentiment better than this film’s. It’s called Faltu only, to use popular Indian expression. And that’s what most will assume the film to be – wasteful -- for two socially significant reasons.
One, the last movie from the same makers was called Kal Kisne Dekha (yeah, no one I know saw it too).
Two, this is what in Bollywood should be termed the ‘family film’. Which isn’t to suggest it’s meant for family viewing. But that a family’s made it (for its own pleasures first): Pappa (Vashu Bhagnani) is the producer, mummy (Honey Bhagnani) the associate, old protégé (Ritesh Deshmukh) is in the cast… Beta (Jackky Bhagnani) is the superstar, of the film, and of 14 original songs in it, most of them ‘item numbers’. The peppiest track, Party baaki hai is shot as an ad for Nissan Mycra (which by the way is darned smooth for a small car).
Heroines in Hindi movies though are the only movable commodities that need no parental connections to compete for stardom. Hardly a film hero or producer, you may have noticed, wants their daughters to get into this trade. They just know better, I guess. The one here (Puja Gupta) is rightly a newcomer.
Stepping out of a film such as this, I felt, “Ah, wasn’t bad at all!” This tells you as much about my experience of the movie as the expectations held when walking into it.
The lead boy’s father here sells bangaar (scrap) for a living. The boy himself would be scrap material for an education system that values marks scored in an exam alone. They don’t give you points for partying. That’s what the hero and his friends do. They can barely pass a written test. Except for one of them (Chandan Roy Sanyal, inspired casting), whose strict dad (Akbar Khan, imitating his late brother Feroze) coerces him into academics. The said geeky kid could also do with some fun. He’s scored a 90-plus, gotten admission into a top college, which would be a three-year paid vacation anyway. As all Indian liberal arts colleges are, and that isn't emphasised here. His buddies are struggling in their early 40s. No college will accept them. Their parents are understandably disillusioned. It may be too late for a rain check. The hero is equally helpless.
He and his friends cook up a college name then, design its fake website, advertise the non-existent school in news-dailies. They take over a disputed property, hire film extras (“junior artistes” in Bollywood-speak) to pose as students. Just so their parents can come, drop them off to this supposed school, leave for home, feeling secure about their kids’ future. The amount the kids probably spend to start a college from scratch could find them a place at various private universities that offer seats against capitation fee. But that’s another matter.
Mom-pops are satisfied. Plan works. Or it doesn’t. Turns out hundreds of other low-scoring students have also turned up at the same fake school, hoping to be enrolled.
Half a dozen writers have been credited for this film. The director is also the choreographer (since that would be most of his work). Plagiarism is still acceptable in Bollywood. The flick has been richly lifted from a Steven Pinker flick, called, well, Accepted (2006). Which, by the way, has already been cogged once by another local filmmaker (KD Satyam’s Admission Open, last year). Huh!
The fake college in the original stood for SHIT (South Harmon Institute of Technology). The one here’s called Fakirchand and Lakirchand Trust University (in short, FALTU). A fully equipped campus is in place. Swimming pool works well. Crates of beers have been ordered. Mindlessness shouldn’t be measured.
Frat-boy, crass fun is a legit Hollywood genre (Old School, American Pie etc). The unlikely issue with Faltu is it isn’t faltu enough. It unleashes a lengthy manifesto for educational reforms insetad. Kids learn to make their imagined hobbies their chosen careers, watch videos of fashion designers, DJs, chefs, fitness instructors, choreographers… The film’s director (Remo); director of Housefull and Hey Baby, Sajid Khan; fashion designer Manish Malhotra etc walk in to lecture students on how to make it in life (or films). Clueless collegians look up, impressed. The suggested professions are possibly harder to break into than passing simple school exams. But then...
Everyone wants to tap into fancies of the indeterminate youth that makes for majority of India’s consumers. Most mistake their clothes for attitude. I just worry for the heavy icons we offer them, and lessons we dole out. Step into this employment exchange entertainment. Thank god, if you don’t have a child to raise. Curse your luck, if you do.