Starring Ayushmann Khurrana, Nushrat Bharucha, Annu Kapoor, Vijay Raaz, Abhishek Bannerjee, Raj Bhansali, Nidhi Bisht
Directed by Raaj Shaandilya
Way back in 1977 when Dream Girl meant Hema Malini, Dharmendra sang Anand Bakshi’s truly romantic line Kissi shaayar ki ghazal , Dream Girl…. 42 years later the ceaselessly enterprising Vijay Raaz plays a self-styled shaayar who bores everyone with his cheesy lines, his own wife being his prime victim.The potty-level poet is one low life among many in a film that tells you it’s okay to seek dubious companionship when loneliness it at its peak.
There is something inherently amusing about people being forced into roles that they were not born to play, Ayushmann Khurrana has lately mastered the art of being cornered by a corny karma….Or, if it not his karma then someone close to him, like his Dad in Badhaai Ho who impregnates his mom at an age when parents are supposed to go on teeth yatras.
In his new film ‘Quality Hero’ Ayushmann’s father (the very talented Annu Kapoor) plays a father who embarrasses his son by falling in love with a coquettish suggestive voice. That the phone friend happens to be his own son moonlighting as a call-centre phone-fatale, is supposed to raise the laugh bar by leaps and bounds.
It does, and it doesn’t. While all the jokes that the narrative milks out of the given situation of a jobless young man posing as a seductive woman on phone are stretched almost to breaking-point, there is something inherently likeable about Khurrana’s constant attempts to push onscreen heroism into dark areas. He isn’t afraid to fall even when the script doesn’t quite provide the support to stay steadily on his feet.
Here he is Karm, alias Pooja the phone-friend who sucks up to lonely men. The assortment of deliberately diverse men besotted by ‘Pooja’ is well played by Vijay Raaz, Abhishek Bannerjee (playing a Mohd Rafi fan who sings only one of the great singer’s songs), Raj Bhansali (playing a spoilt rich brat who cuts his wrist instead of the cake on his birthday when ‘Pooja’ didn’t show up) . There is a also a part-time lesbian played by Nidhi Bisht who is imagined as an angry man-hater. She too falls in love with ‘Pooja’.
Things get out of hand when Karm, alias Pooja, discovers that his own father is one of the besotted brigade. There is a painfully extended joke on Baap Anu Kapoor converting to Islam as he thinks his phone-love is a Muslim. By the time we wade through Kapoor’s glint-eyed glazed vocabulary of broken Urdu, the plot is so laden with fruitcake characters, you simply want to drown dirty-talking ‘Pooja’ in the nearest porn…I mean, pond.
While the clamour for a faceless company serves as a mischievous metaphor for urban loneliness the humour goes from cheeky to shrieky, with a finale so supremely soaked in self-righteousness it almost feels like a pitch for a tax-exemption by a film that knows it doesn’t deserve it.
All misgivings and sins of overstating the theme are swept aside by the central performance. Ayushmann Khurrana has so much fun teasing the gender-bender theme and his ‘Pooja’ is so suffused in the scent of the ardh-nari gone completely ballistic that you remain invested in the proceedings, even when it loses the plot .