AKSHAY SAVES THE DAY
THE SHAUKEENS Direction: Abhishek Sharma
Actors: Anupam Kher, Akshay Kumar
Towards the end of The Shaukeens, Akshay Kumar, playing a spoilt, alcoholic, superstar named Akshay Kumar, offers to make a fan the leading lady in his next film. But I can’t act, she says.
He replies, “Jisko kuch nahin aata woh acting hi toh karta hai. Mujhe dekho.” Akshay spoofing himself is the best part of The Shaukeens. Despite the obvious lack of talent, the alcoholic Akshay desperately wants to win a National Award. So he’s working with a Bengali director who is trying to teach him method acting. At one point, the director calls Akshay a non-actor and says, “Sirf khiladi picture karna aata hai, furniture bhi tumse behtar acting karta
hai.” It’s genuinely funny and refreshing to see a huge Bollywood star tearing himself apart with such aplomb. But this amusing Bollywood critique — which includes a delightful cameo by Akshay’s real life main-law Dimple Kapadia — is embedded in a far less funny story. The Shaukeens is a loose reworking of Basu Chatterjee’s 1982 film about three sixty-plus men who are desperately seeking sex. I haven’t seen the original but today, it’s hard to find laughs in three lecherous old men sitting in a park and staring at women. The situation is so inherently icky that even three first-rate actors — Anupam Kher, Annu Kapoor and Piyush Mishra — can’t redeem it. It doesn’t help that director Abhishek Sharma cheerfully reduces women to body parts or that a voice-over tells us that ‘ inki fithrath wahi hai — doggy
Sharma and co-writer Tigmanshu Dhulia aren’t able to locate that amiable, good-natured tone that is so necessary to make this narrative palatable. Eventually, their quest for sex leads the friends to Mauritius, where they meet Ahana, played by Lisa Haydon. Ahana is a huge Akshay fan. Soon, the friends are pursuing Akshay to please Ahana, who they hope will return the favour. Lisa combines lethal sexuality with absolute likability. Her beauty is disarming, and her charm partially disguises the grossness of these men trying to seduce her. The Shaukeens improves substantially in the second half, when it becomes more about Akshay and less about the buddies. In fact, Akshay earns the film an extra star.
An extra star for Akshay