Let me start this review by making a candid confession. I liked Anees Bazmee’s 2007 Blockbuster 'Welcome' to a great extent. The gangster duo Uday Shetty and Majnu bhai, played by a remarkable Nana Patekar and an ever-dramatic Anil Kapoor respectively, were etched in my mind for long. Add to it Akshay Kumar’s gifted sense of humor, Paresh Rawal’s impeccable comic timing and the iconic “Aloo Lelo, Kanda Lelo” sequence – Welcome had some genuinely uproarious moments. No wonder, the film was not just a huge box office success but also went on to become one of the most loved films on television that continues to garner great TRPs till date.
Eight years later, Bazmee comes with an absolute charade in the name of a sequel. There seems to be no genuine creative impetus or even an honest motive behind making Welcome Back, apart from the obvious urge for financial windfalls. Welcome Back has a plot that is so hackneyed, loop-ridden and even ridiculous at places that it makes a motley bunch of talented actors look like buffoons. Imagine yourself silently cursing Naseeruddin Shah towards the end because he and his uninspiring portrayal of ‘Wanted Bhai’ does nothing apart from stretching an already dreadfully boring film. Ditto for someone like Dimple Kapadia who does not know what she is supposed to do or the poor comeback man Shiney Ahuja who is put into a predictable and pointless role.
Poor Story, Screenplay and Direction:
The film’s story itself is a spin-off from its prequel’s plot with a couple of inexplicable son and daughter discoveries being used to repackage the old, worn-out drama. This time around Uday and Majnu bhai (Nana Patekar and Anil reprising their roles) take up the task of marrying off their yet another sister (Shruti Hassan) to a seedha and shareef man as the gangsters themselves have become good guys and settled down in Dubai. In their quest for a perfect groom, they yet again cross paths with Dr Ghungroo (Paresh Rawal) who has his own ‘son discovery’ to deal with. Ajju Bhai or Ajay (John Abraham) is Dr. Ghungroo’s step-son and a dreaded Mumbai gangster. Uday and Majnu themselves are in awe of a petite young thug (debutante Ankita Shrivastava) who along with her mother (Dimple Kapadia) pose as princess and queen of Najafgarh.
Welcome Back’s screenplay is over-complicated and overcrowded to a point that it annoys you. There are too many worthless sub-plots in the film and actors come into and go out of the frame on their will (you can’t imagine what they do with Rajpal Yadav’s character). Anees Bazmee is not an auteur in the genre of comedy but Welcome Back definitely pitches him at par with someone like Sajid Khan and his brand of intelligence-insulting humor. I am all game for lowbrow and leave-your-mind-at-home kind of comedy but a film like Welcome Back takes the audiences for granted and only tries to cash in (and eventually destroys) the existing goodwill for its prequel.
Wasted Ensemble Cast:
The biggest disservice by Anees Bazmee is probably how he assembles such fine actors and lets that advantage fritter away. Not just that, he replaces the very likeable lead pair of Akshay-Katrina from the prequel with an odd and insipid Jodi of John Abraham and Shruti Hassan. John Abraham tries to bulldoze his Shootout at Wadala act here but fails miserably. His contributions to the film end with his 10 packs, a good-looking face and a new found, weird baritone during dialogue delivery. Shruti Hassan, on the other hand, delivers such an amateurish performance that you wonder why is she in the film, or worse why is she into acting.
Ankita Shrivastava, the debutante who is there in the film to wear skimpy clothes and deliver dialogues like a 10-year old, is a bizarre choice for the role of a temptress. She tries too hard but does not achieve an iota of what Mallika Sherawat did effortlessly in Welcome. And also, the girl is way too young to be singing tacky songs with Nana and Anil who look like her granddads. Dimple Kapadia is cast in a role that gives her no scope whatsoever. Shiney Ahuja makes an entrance post interval and does a few predictable screechy scenes before falling in line with the film’s overall tediousness. Naseeruddin Shah fails to be a worthy replacement for the Late Firoz Khan and I will not mince words in saying that he is plain bad in the film. He might be a great actor otherwise but there is no harm in calling a spade a spade when there is a need.
Nana and Anil Salvage Some Pride:
Welcome Back’s only saving grace is the delectable duo of Nana Patekar and Anil Kapoor. The two veterans are in the same old form and try hard to salvage the pride despite being handicapped by poorly-written dialogues (Raj Shandaliya). Despite all the lacuna, there’s a memorable sequence in a graveyard where Nana and Anil play Antakshari with the ghosts. This one scene underscores the incredible chemistry that the two share as affable goons and makes you wonder how a good script would have allowed these two to come into their elements. It’s a shame that Anees Bazemee wastes the potential of two fine characters and two great actors by making what is easily a lesser of sequel. Similarly, Paresh Rawal, who sparkled as Dr. Ghungroo in the previous installment, is undone by sheer lack of witty one-liners that were a trademark of his character.
Outrageous Music and Tacky VFX:
Welcome Back perhaps features the most outrageous songs that I have had the misfortune of hearing to in recent times. Songs pop out of nowhere through the film and they are resplendent with horrible lyrics (Band kamre mein 20-20 hua!), suggestive dance moves and horrendous choreography. You would want to close your eyes and ears in disgust while these songs are bombarded on you without any prior warning. Do I need to say more?
As if the entire, almost 3-hour long film was not torturous enough, Welcome Back also has an inexplicable climax featuring hordes of camels, choppers, dessert gypsies, aircraft bombs and a sandstorm. The CGI of the sandstorm is a throwback to the 80s and it makes the special effects of a film like Hisss look good.
Welcome Back is an unbearable film that mocks your intelligence, breaches all the thresholds of stupidity and redefines the contempt with which many mainstream filmmakers treat their audiences these days. Nana Patekar and Anil Kapoor try hard but fail to save this sinking ship and you dearly miss the good old Akhsay Kumar who was the rock-solid anchor of Welcome.
Do yourself a favor and do not watch Welcome Back. You, I and all of us deserve much better.