As soon as you know this is a film by director Anees Bazmee (Welcome, Thank You, Welcome Back) you begin to make certain – and not entirely inaccurate – assumptions. There will be a case of mistaken identity, there will be meddling men, there will be an ear-drum shattering decibel level to the background music, there will be ensemble songs and a complicated climax where all the confusion gets cleared – you hope — once and for all.
Mubarakan opens in 1990s England. Some rather reckless driving leads to a car crash resulting in orphaned twins who are adopted by a doting aunt and an equally doting uncle, respectively. Karan grows up in London while Charan is raised in Chandigarh.
Unlike their appearance (Arjun Kapoor in a double role), the brother’s personalities are not identical. Karan is fast-talking; Charan is docile. They have another thing in common: the inability to reveal the truth about their love lives to their family.
Surprisingly the confusion in the plot (story by Balwinder Singh Januja and Rupinder Chahal) does not revolve around the twins since one is without headgear and the other wears a turban. They also dress unlike each other, though both have questionable fashion sense. The madness pivots around marriages being arranged for the brothers.
In an early scene in a London mall, you see Karan and Sweety (Ileana D’Cruz) chatting to each other on their phones. A slightly impolite Sweety observes an Indian woman trip and, for no particular, proceeds to taunt her. This cringe-worthy exchange of juvenile verbal abuse goes on for an uncomfortably long time, long enough though for you to begin to dislike Karan’s girlfriend and his mother/ aunt (Ratna Pathak Shah). Of course Karan does not have the courage to stand up for either woman in his life.
Across continents, Charan is in no better place. He’s in love with lawyer Nafisa (Neha Sharma) but is too meek to tell his prejudiced and patriarchal father/ uncle (Pavan Malhotra) about his non-Sikh girlfriend. You don’t blame him really because Malhotra’s default performance setting is shouting. It’s a disappointing acting choice by a fine performer like Malhotra.
When Karan’s guardians find a suitable girl for him, things begin to go from complicated to absurd and then plain stupid. Karan does not want to marry Binkle (Athiya Shetty) because he’s in love with Sweety. Charan does not want to marry Binkle either because he is in love with Nafisa, until he meets Binkle and then he’s confused. Helping the boys out in their state of paralysis and fear is their youngest uncle Kartar Singh (Anil Kapoor).
Anil Kapoor is the only actor in the piece with a hint of a British accent, saying ‘my boy’ and ‘my lad’ with flare. Kartar is a single, middle-aged man who lives in an opulent home that is his homage to Punjab. His Man Friday, Jolly, is a Punjabi speaking English man who offers lassi to the guests and plays along with Kartar’s preposterous ideas.
One of these is convincing Binkle’s family that Charan is a drug addict in order to put them off the marriage alliance. You just know a talcum powder gag and a reference to Udta Punjab cannot be far behind.
Even as he desperately tries to hold his family together, to protect his nephews and solve his own dilemma of being torn between a feuding siblings, Anil Kapoor is the soul of this ensemble comedy and makes up in spades for the rest, who seem to be acting comedy.
But since there’s little to pick between the performances of Arjun Kapoor, Shetty, D’Cruz and Sharma, Anil Kapoor can only do so much to compensate for their endeavours.
Long drawn out scenes and overwritten speeches overacted in overdressed sets bring in narrative drag, which is hara-kiri for a situational comedy that can succeed only if your brain is not given time to apply logic.
Fortunately, the humour does not degenerate to crass double entendres. Family entertainment is clearly at the core and Mubarakan manages to deliver enough laughs.
CAST: Anil Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Ileana D’Cruz, Athiya Shetty, Ratna Pathak Shah, Pavan Malhotra, Neha Sharma
DIRECTION: Anees Bazmee
DURATION: 2 hours 36 minutes
India Pages Rating: ★★