Friday, 13 September 2013

From the archive: "Masti"

The Hindi film Masti takes as its starting point the (terrible) old joke about there being three rings for a man upon settling down: the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and suffering. A trio of uni friends, once committed bachelors, reunite almost a decade after graduation, and vow to get away from their variously loyal, controlling and devout spouses by each starting an affair; the real trouble arises when they all contrive to fall for the exact same woman. Though its fantasy sequences are very Scrubs or Ally McBeal, the dubious sexual politics, speeded-up bits, references to "blue films" and exaggerated sound effects could only have derived from extended exposure to 1970s-era sitcoms.

Indeed, Masti is resolutely unsophisticated, with lower-than-usual Bollywood production values, and playing so broad it barely fits on the screen: compared to the range and subtlety typically exhibited by Shah Rukh Khan, the three leads here (Vivek Oberoi, Aftab Shivdasani and Ritesh Deshmukh) are more like the minor players - the Eddie Kaye Thomas and Thomas Ian Nicholases - of the American Pie features. The comic nightmare of the second half - introducing the formidable Inspector Sikander (Ajay Devgan) - is handled with slightly more assurance, but this is still the kind of piece where even as dead bodies begin to line the plot, director Indra Kumar is attempting to squeeze in yet another married-man-mistaken-for-gay-man joke. Exhaustingly shrill and hectoringly camp, as warnings against playing away go, it comes in somewhere between Eyes Wide Shut and John Wayne Bobbitt's Frankenpenis. Only with (not bad) songs.

(April 2004)

Masti is available on DVD through Eros; a belated sequel, Grand Masti, opens in cinemas nationwide today.

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