By Arnab Banerjee
Film: Selfiee. Duration: 142 minutes.
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Diana Penty, Emraan Hashmi and Nushrratt Bharuccha.
Director: Raj Mehta. Cinematography: Rajeev Ravi.
IANS Rating: **1/2
Celebrities, particularly film stars, and their brush with the law are not uncommon. Famous people do have run-ins with the law, and some of them have even spent time behind bars. Some superstars rue the fact that the law is very often much tougher on them, but law enforcement agencies believe that celebs are not immune to the law and that all citizens must abide by it.
This week's only release, 'Selfiee', attempts to raise the issue of well-known people riding roughshod over the law and getting away with lesser penalties.
Superstar Vijay Kumar (Akshay Kumar) enjoys the status of a demigod in the country. His cramped schedule doesn't allow even a single day off, much to the annoyance of his doting wife (Diana Penty).
The couple had planned a month-long holiday in the US, where she wished to deliver her first child conceived through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). Kumar is all set to finish the last leg of a film shoot in Bhopal before flying off, but the producer (Akashdeep) requests him to shoot the climax for which the star needs to drive a vehicle in a sensitive area maintained by the Army.
Now that isn't much of an issue, but Kumar's driving licence has expired, and therefore, he cannot be allowed to drive without one ASAP. He needs to obtain a new driving licence from the RTO, Om Prakash Agarwal (Emraan Hashmi), who happens to be Kumar's diehard fan.
Not paying much attention first to something which looks like a cakewalk, Kumar refuses to come down from his privileged high horse and comply with the rules that require him to visit the RTO and do the needful. The inspector, who is delighted at the thought of meeting his idol, decides to take his young son to get a selfie clicked on the historic occasion.
To complicate matters, Vijay's rival actor (Abhimanyu Singh), supposedly his childhood friend who's had several flops in a row, and is desperately trying to make a comeback, tries hard to get Vijay into trouble so that his film career nosedives too.
Meanwhile at the RTO, Kumar is upset to see mediapersons thronging the office even before he reaches there to fulfil the formalities required for the licence. Some of the scribes begin to ask uncomfortable questions as to how Kumar was driving his car without a valid licence and canvassing for Safe Driving campaigns too.
An enraged Kumar blames Agarwal for stooping so low just for his 15 minutes of fame at Kumar's expense. The misunderstanding between the two escalates into a feud played out in front of the entire country.
The premise of this 143-minute film is believable. A worshipped film hero cannot be above the law and must face the consequences of his actions. Agarwal is a commoner who not just adores but reveres his hero, but at the same time is a committed and law-abiding officer. Though the face-off between them seems exaggerated and too staged, it works as per the film's theme.
What doesn't work is the script trying hard to highlight Akshay Kumar and his stardom. Even when his character is shown to be weak and losing his popularity, he is unnecessarily allowed to behave arrogantly.
Maybe, it justifies the superstar status of the character he plays, but on the other hand, it serves as a ploy to make him look both supreme and heroic. Hashmi, who has earned a respectable position as an actor over the past decade, having done away with his stereotypical romantic image that also won him the tag of the 'serial
kisser', is consistently good as the simple, family-loving conscientious officer.
Director Raj Mehta, who is known to handle serious themes in a typical filmi manner ('Good News' and 'Jug Jugg Jiyo'), cramming his narratives with masala and entertainment, lets you down by reducing all other supporting actors into buffoons.
Some of the situations, too, could have been far more convincing had they been dealt with some sensitivity. Instead, every serious tone is diluted with comic dialogues and characters who are imperfect, derailing the weightiness of some important developments. It had a good premise that could have been either hilariously
written, or by adding thrilling moments between entitlement and the principles of the law.
Cinematographer Rajeev Ravi doesn't have much at hand to improve the strongly marked laugh lines that Kumar tries hard to hide.
Writer Rishabh Sharma, too, must have had a tough time adding heft to the story credited to Sachy, though we all know that it is based on the 2019 Malayalam film 'Driving Licence' by Jean Paul Lal.
There isn't much scope for songs in between what seems like a face-off between a hero and a villain, but there are a few that appear out of the blue -- one of them being a a rehash of Anu Malik's 'Main Khiladi Tu Anadi'.
The film has been released in theatres and should be heartening for film buffs to enjoy an outing. If only it was worth the effort and the ticket prices!
Gopi Adusumilli is a Programmer. He is the editor of SocialNews.XYZ and President of AGK Fire Inc.
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