Severely hobbled by a banal plot premise, Bajatey Raho does not drum up any real joy.
Not that it is devoid of a hook to hang its wafer-thin storyline on. A little more effort and imagination might have made the film two hours of harmless fun.
Director Shashant A Shah, in his third Bollywood outing, strives hard to deliver a rib-tickler. But his film does not rise to the kind of comic crescendo one expects from an intended laugh riot.
Bajatey Raho has some competent actors in the cast and they give it their best shot. However, the humour, whatever little there is of it, is at best pedestrian.
One sits through the film hoping it will come alive once the stage is for the gags to unfold.
Nothing happens. Bajatey Raho meanders to a predictable climax. The bad guy receives his comeuppance. The wronged ones get their own back.
If this is meant to be a crime caper, it simply isn’t funny enough.
If it is supposed to be a droll satire on the oft-ridiculed profligate ways of Dilli’s denizens, it doesn’t ever hit home.
And if the idea is to pass the film off as a capricious drama about a family desperate to avenge the death of its upright patriarch, it is only a failed, if well-meaning, attempt.
Bajatey Raho is the kind of muddled Mumbai movie that the Bollywood cognoscenti can spot from miles away: it whips up a whole lot of cacophony without making too much sense.
The film’s makers, on their part, take the title quite literally and pepper the soundtrack with ear-splitting background music and shrill songs.
It is not that the Bawejas of old Delhi are an unlikeable lot. It is, therefore, difficult to understand why their vengeful sorties into enemy territory need to be accompanied by the most off-putting, high-decibel orchestral score?
The brood is headed by a spirited widow, Mummyji (Dolly Ahluwalia), who barks out orders to the three grown-up men around the house (Vinay Pathak, Ranvir Shorey, Tushhar Kapoor) as they go about the task of duping a baleful businessman (Ravi Kishen) of his ill-gotten wealth and bringing down his empire.
The family’s ire has been sparked because the widow’s husband, framed for a bank fraud perpetrated by the thug, has committed suicide and his daughter-in-law has landed in jail.
The bank’s owner washes his hands of the scam and goes scot-free. The deceived investors demand their money back – a sum of Rs 15 crores – from the widow and her family.
The Bawejas run a cable TV business and the only way they can make the kind of money they need to save their home from being put up for sale is by resorting to means unfair and foul.
After springing a couple of sting operations on their quarry, they gatecrash the wedding of the businessman’s daughter in the guise of caterers-cum-decorators.
The rest of the film is dull and dreary. It packs in everything that one expects from a comedy set in Delhi, including a raucous wedding song, a protracted jagran routine inspired by a Hindi film number and the shenanigans of slimy social climbers.
Along the way, Bajatey Raho takes potshots at a school admission scam, a spurious milk dairy, an ostentatious shaadi and a dim-witted television actor and his avaricious dad. Nothing sticks because the approach is half-hearted.
The city of Delhi provides no more than a mere backdrop. It does not add a meaningful layer to the narrative. The mannerisms and the lingo that the characters are made to adopt are overly clichéd, if not entirely synthetic.
The boys have names like Sukhi, Mintoo and Ballu. Also part of the gang is a spunky teenager called Kabootar (Hussan Saad). But this gallery of oddballs does not add up to anything that goes beyond the strictly superficial.
For good measure, the screenplay throws in a romantic track as well – cable TV man Tusshar falls in love with rental defaulter Vishakha Singh. The two instantly break into song and dance. The audience remains unmoved.
What are actors of the quality of Vinay Pathak and Ranvir Shorey doing here?
And please, Dolly Ahluwalia, fresh from winning a National Award for a nuanced performance more up her street in Vicky Donor, deserves infinitely better. Her feisty Punjabi matron act is fast losing its zing.
The rare moments of comic energy are provided by Ravi Kishen.
This is Vishakha Singh’s third Hindi release this year. It is abundantly clear that she has it in her to take on more challenging assignments than the one she is saddled with here.
Bajatey Raho does not play it right. Off-key and overly contrived, it is a pretty ordinary effort that is not even mildly engaging.