Rajkumar Santoshi has almost always been amongst this writer's favorite directors. With films like Damini, Ghayal, and Khakee in his repertoire, the veteran director also has comedies of the cult kind (Andaz Apna Apna) to his credit. However, post the highly successful and endearing Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, Santoshi seemed to have disappeared into regular controversy. Till he returned to collaborate with Tips films yet again with the now successfully running Phata Poster Nikhla Hero, that is. Also making a comeback is Shahid Kapoor, whose last couple of kahaanis faced some real rough mausam (puns intended). Joining the party are Ileana D'Cruz, the regulars from Tips, and Pritam who last collaborated with Santoshi to deliver chart-topping music that still acquires decent airplay whenever possible. With the team that has now set itself to the highest expectations, the average viewer would only wonder if those would at the least be met at all.
Let this writer be frank at the outset of this review itself: the movie really has nothing new to offer. It has a wafer thin plot and narrative, which thus means it would have to work on either star-power, or presentation and packaging. Take up the story of Munnabhai M. B. B. S., which this film very loosely adheres to. An aspiring actor lives with his mother, who in turn wants him to become a police officer. He leaves for an interview to Mumbai, but works on his aspirations instead. What follows is almost known to everybody, and yet for the potential viewer to watch.
The issue with this film isn't that it's a masala flick: with this potboiler of genres that Hindi cinema keeps churning out, cinematic liberties are a given. For escapist cinema as such, it's highly important for the viewers to have to get a good narrative, multi-dimensional character arcs and strong execution prowess. Unfortunately, this film falters on almost all counts. What, however, disappoints this reviewer is the attachment of a rather respectable director like Santoshi into this project. The man just doesn't seem to click with his execution here. Where there are agreeably some high points of the film in the first half, most of it makes way for soppy, manipulative melodrama that reaches an unsatisfying climax that doesn't really seem to give the protagonist any bit of redemption. The protagonist's love interest's character closely resembles one played by Asin in Ghajini, which further dampens the impact she would give in the film. Padmini Kohlapure, though highly endearing as Kapoor's mother, plays a poorly sketched manipulative character with a highly cliched justification. Now this writer knows that it's a family entertainer. It can however not be disagreed upon that the inclusion of the whole family doesn't give the writers any leverage to ignore basic masala movie logic, primary of which is allowing the protagonist to get what he wants, which doesn't seem to happen even through its end.
Technically, the movie is a mixed bag. Whilst the movie boasts of impressive cinematography, the color-grading and the editing are comme ci comme ca. Action choreography is decent. The set pieces, however, heavily remind the viewers of Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. The music works well, but all the songs seem forced into the narrative, paving way for an overall uncomfortable movie-watching experience.
Now that's not to say that the movie doesn't work at all: in fact, some scenes induce unprecedented laughter through and through. The strong promotion of the film, unfortunately, has banked heavily on it's comedic flair. The expectant viewer would thus be expecting and out-and-out comedy. When the makers, however, have given the potential viewer a film that has polarizing tonalities pre-intermission and post-intermission; the viewer would inevitably be left highly confused.
These qualities make Phata Poster Nikla Hero a half-baked, disappointing masala entertainer, shamelessly manipulative in it's language and incoherent in it's emotion. For what is touted as Kapoor's 'comeback' film after his gargantuan debacles in the form of Mausam and Teri Meri Kahaani, this one is a disappointment of epic proportions. There are, however, a number of viewers this film has been made for, and for the very market that consists of passionate Shahid Kapoor fans (that also throng the multiplex), and single screen viewers who need unapologetic, brain-dead movies to entertain and relieve themselves. For these very reasons, the film may do very well. Of course, for this writer, that could never be enough.