If Chala Mussaddi Office Office does not rise to any great heights, it is certainly not for want of trying. In fact, the film tries too hard ? too hard for its own good. The final result is a hopelessly flaccid pastiche of situational gags that relies solely on broad strokes of humour.
Subtlety is beyond the ken of this satire, a stodgy, laboured, unfunny big-screen condensation of Office Office, the successful television sitcom of a decade ago.
The man at the helm is the very same Rajiv Mehra who gave us Zabaan Sambhal Ke, that delightful 1990s Indianised version of BBC's Mind Your Language, with the very same Pankaj Kapur, one of the finest screen actors this side of the Suez. But Chala Mussaddi shows nary a sign of being a patch on even television's Office Office, which had much going for it, let alone Zabaan Sambhal Ke.
The actors of the TV show are all on the big screen. Each major member of the supporting cast ? Manoj Pahwa, Deven Bhojani, Sanjay Mishra, Asawari Joshi and Hemant Pandey ? plays multiple characters, surfacing in the guises of different corrupt government functionaries but with his or her defining mannerisms and pet phrases intact across the incarnations.
The pace of Chala Mussaddi is painfully sluggish despite the fact that the film isn't long at all. Thank God for small mercies.
It isn't until a few minutes before the intermission that the film really reaches a point where it promises to finally spring to life. It eventually doesn't.
Mussaddi Lal Tripathy (Pankaj Kapur, as competent as ever but for a lost cause), a retired 62-year-old headmaster of a Ghaziabad school, returns home from a pilgrimage undertaken to immerse his wife's ashes in the Ganges. He goes to his bank to withdraw his pension only to learn that no money has been deposited in his account for three months.
On the advice of the bank teller (Bhojani in one of his many avatars in the film) advises him to check with the pension office. So off goes Mussaddi to another dreaded sarkari den in the hope of deliverance. The clerk ? the ubiquitous Bhatiaji (Manoj Pahwa) ? tells him with a straight face that his name has been struck off the register of government pensioners because he is now dead.
Mussaddi must wage a single-handed war to prove that he is still alive. All too predictably, the blokes at the pension office gang up against him. Post-intermission, you really don't care whether Mussaddi is dead or alive. You want to get out alive and in one piece from this dead-end comedy.
We've seen umpteen comedies about the hapless common man in the past. We've also been treated to many a cinematic indictment of exploitative public officials. Chala Mussaddi doesn't take us anywhere we haven't been before. Worse, it makes awfully rough weather of getting wherever it is headed. Avoid this trip if you value your time and money.