Time was when the story of a dysfunctional family worked well on the box office for Bollywood. Such was the reach of this theme that a long list of producers made their careers soar (read mint money) by rehashing the same beaten-to-death formula again and again, without any apparent dent on their creative credibility.
On that count, producer Prakash Jha's Crazy Cukkad Family stands out like a sore thumb in this age of over-the-top histrionics and gravity-defying stunt sequences. Or does it really? Let's find out.
To be fair, Rajesh Khanna was great in Avtaar, and Amitabh Bachchan played the patriarch's role with aplomb in Baghban. Just that these two characters, and many others in between, weren't vulnerable at a personal level, but still sought love, care and respect from their immediate surroundings.
The same traditional, sharp- tongued, hard-willed patriarch reincarnates in the form of Babuji (Yusuf Hussain) in Crazy Cukkad Family in 2015: He's taken care of his family, and the family business, for many years. Things take a turn for the worse when he goes into a coma after an accident. But he is forbidden from dying in peace as none of his children is willing to show any gratitude towards him or his wife. Money is the only thing that keeps them together, and even remind them of each other. All the four children of Babuji are struggling with problems, and desperately need money. Their only hope is the patriarch's will, but even that can be executed only after his death. In a way, all of them are waiting for him to die. But then, what's a Hindi film without a generous dose of melodrama!
Trouble is, there is an overdose of it in Crazy Cukkad..., and even that fails to mask the film's predictable, pedestrian theme. Every character in the film follows the conventional curve, which makes it a story completely dependent on the acting skills.
Swanand Kirkire plays the eldest brother Pawan Beri: He is a coward, chauvinist and is always scheming. His three siblings are no better. Archana (Shilpa Shukla) -- a frustrated, unhappily married woman, Aman (Kushal Punjabi) -- an unsuccessful, lovable, wannabe photographer, and Abhay (Siddharth Sharma) -- a squeaky, vulnerable gay, are all conniving for the best bargain. It's only when they are confronted by their respective enemies that all four realise the value of a family.
Kirkire looks the most natural of them all. Still, the confusion whether he should look sensible or go all out comic is writ large on his face. Shilpa Shukla seems to have put in all her efforts on producing a fake accent than working on giving any depth to her character. The rest of the siblings don’t get much screen space to showcase their talent. It’s weird to see siblings pronouncing the same word in different dialects and styles.
The basic flaw with such a film is that it is a story told via dialogues which means your characters need to be carved out judiciously. For them to be believable, they had to be given nuances that brought out their innate values. Director Ritesh Menon probably understood it because he has tried to give the film a satirical feel. But the lack of thinking on the writer’s part hinders his chances. For example, a sequence in the film features a girl who has worked in a song called Sexy Wala Pakoda. It starts as a funny sequence, but they have repeated it so many times that it loses the charm. Similarly, they have overplayed with Ninad Kamat’s cross-dressing trait. It has its shock value the first time. The mystical approach, however, dilutes quickly and it becomes a caricature towards the end. But, it’s definitely the best sequence of the film when it takes place initially.Watch: Crazy Cukkad family trailer
The characters have been given back stories, but they have not been backed up properly. Whether to go for tragic comedy or comic tragedy, the ghost of catch-22 keeps hovering. Ultimately it turns into a confused narrative.
The idea of presenting a money-minded madcap household might have looked good on paper, but it doesn’t work as a film in the absence of a strong conflict line. The sibling rivalry looks forced and typical because the story unfolds in a very banal manner.
The editor has done a fantastic job by keeping the length of the film just under 90 minutes. It stops CCF from becoming a tedious watch.
In the end, Crazy Cukkad Family lacks freshness and is a rework of many Bollywood films. You may like it in bits and pieces, but overall it’s just an average fillm.
(Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/@nawabjha