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Review: Paying Guests

Four-actor set-piece comedy, with a fresh gag on every reel, is an arithmetic formula fished out of a marketer’s excel sheet. Many such have been recycled since legit companies pumped in public money into pictures, just a few years back, writes Mayank Shekhar.

movie reviews Updated: Jun 20, 2009 13:12 IST
Mayank Shekhar

Paying Guests
Director: Paritosh Painter
Actors: Shreyas Talpade, Javed Jaffery
Rating: *1/2

Four-actor set-piece comedy, with a fresh gag on every reel, is an arithmetic formula fished out of a marketer’s excel sheet. Many such have been recycled since legit companies pumped in public money into pictures, just a few years back.

The actors need be trained but mid-rung; budgets, relatively low. A few dance tracks for television promotions could take care of the “buzz”, as it were.

This is how Rakesh Roshan, Ajay Devgan, Priyadarshan and many others lost their audiences recently (Krazzy 4, Sunday, Dhol..). Luckier ones packed in theatres and their debit accounts with Golmaal (a complete cracker); its sequel in spirit (Dhamaal, just as good); its authorised sequel (a boring bluff); and there’s a third one coming up.

This dullness is set in a heavily discounted Bangkok. It expectedly stars four bikinis alongside, to make for as many music videos. Four bummers knock back Kingfisher beers in the Thai capital, with no money to afford security-deposit and rent for a commune home. They look up a cheap paying-guest accommodation that only accepts married couples.

Two guys (Shreyas Talpade, Javed Jaffery: in their elements) show up as drag-queens, and check in with the other buddies (Ashish Chaudhary, Vatsal Sheth). Beyond this, the filmmakers are clueless about what to do with the plot, or their highly energetic performers.

The lost actors ad-lib along the way, punctuating their parts with either a lame sexual innuendo or one-liners that transliterate Hindi into English: I don't live anywhere for ‘Main kahin ki nahin rahi’, or upside down for ‘ulti’ (vomit). You get the drift. Jaffery’s a bit of an expert at that.

They smartly did away with a story-writer altogether then: the girls somehow get the guys; the guys somehow befriend the landlord; both somehow settle scores with small-time thieves… Everyone eventually emerges as Draupadi, Osama or Bat Man on a theatrical production of Mughal-e-Azam (could we leave Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro out of this please?). I don’t have anything against leaving your brains behind for a film. Letting it rot this long can’t do your health much good.

The script is admittedly “based on a worldwide super-hit play”. While I’m not certain about the material’s global consequence, the movie itself seems at best a low-energy, one-room Gujarati stage-gag. But for the occasional out-door, guided tours around Patpong or Pataya. This is where you watch the actors and the crew having a serious ball in the film’s ‘out-takes’ (behind-the-scene visuals along the closing credits). I’m not surprised. They aren’t the audience, yet.