Time takes a tottering ride back to the early 90s in Hungama 2, a comedy directed by Priyadarshan. The film is a remake of Minnaram, his 1994 Malayalam superhit comedy. Yunus Sajawal’s screenplay earnestly duplicates Minnaram in its scene order, tweaking it slightly to give a faint impression that the year is 2019.

The film has a lavish setting and a large cast. Johnny Lever appears in a cameo role, winking at the generation of movie-goers who enjoyed his over-pronounced caper. The hero, Meezan Jaffrey, is 29 years old, but Rajpal Yadav, the best friend of 90s’ Bollywood heroes, plays his friend. Shilpa Shetty hangs around unsolicited in the film except for the song sequence where she fabulously dances to the song from Mein Khiladi Tu Anari (1994).

But the actors are fine and earnest despite the frivolity of their characters. The dramatic devices Priyadarshan uses in the narrative hark back to an era in Bollywood that was buried and mourned over a long time ago. The characters’ wardrobe is in vogue, but their spoken language and worldview are archaic.

The central plotline is derivative. A young woman with bold views on life enters a wealthy household overseen by an authoritarian patriarch. She befriends the family’s unruly children and brings laughter into the members’ lives. This modest plotline from The Sound Of Music, Robert Wise’s 1965 Hollywood classic, made its way into Indian cinema through multiple films in different decades, including Jay Jayanti, a 1969 Bengali drama starring Aparna Sen and Uttam Kumar, and Minnaram.

In Hungama 2, Vaani (Pranati), arrives in a mansion in a hill station with a toddler in tow. She claims that the house’s scion, Aakash Kapoor (Meezan Jaffrey), is the child’s father. Although Aakash vehemently denies her claim, his father (Ashutosh Rana), a straightforward retired colonel, and other family members are not convinced. Her arrival leads to bizarre situations that the film tries to pass as comedy.

The only way to enjoy this film is by imagining that the characters are time-travellers from the 90s, who do not know that science has gifted the world marvels such as the Internet and state-of-the-art smartphones with cameras and audio recorders. Perhaps it is easier to assume that the film is the world of a time-traveller who imagines it is alright to insert a scene of attempted rape in a comedy, who is oblivious to the fact that the audience in the country has moved on from loud tomfoolery and stories set in insular mansions.

*****

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