Cast: Jackky Bhagnani, Arshad Warsi, Ayub Khoso, Adnan Shah, Imran Hasnee, Danish Husain, Lauren Gottlieb
Director: Ashish R. Mohan
Rating: Two and a half stars
Oh, what joy! Unadulterated nonsense is alive and it can still kick up a delightfully stupid fuss. Welcome 2 Karachi is a warm, idiotic outing to do nothing except tickle and lionise every stereotype on the other side of the border for our oafish desi jollies. The joke, thus, is as much on us as it is on them.
The film doesn’t have a story. It has a hare-brained plot in the forever-unfolding idiocy of the subcontinent and comes to us via two extreme dimwits and therein lies the film’s charm. Welcome 2 Karachi is a tacky production that often feels like the director wasn’t around and the actors were left to their own devices. The film’s CGI, including opening credits, is so bad that it would make Homi Wadia, the director of the 1956 Hatim Tai, wake up laughing.
Yet, the film is funny. Sometimes very funny. Because it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is, a string of laugh-out-loud, politically-incorrect jokes. And because somewhere in the dumb and dumber shenanigans of its two moron protagonists lies the simple, reassuring truth: hum sab paglet hain, kuch zyada, kuch kam.
Welcome 2 Karachi is about the accidental journey of fuzzy-brained Kedar Patel (Jackky Bhagnani) and Shammi Thakur (Arshad Warsi) from Gujarat to Karachi on a boat laden with 20-odd gyrating white ladies in clothes that would not amount to one ghaghra-choli set for the 2015 dandiya queen.
It’s a comedy that borrows the idea of its two main characters from Dumb and Dumber (1994), and plot-line from buff predecessors like Hercules and Gulliver, the idea being to travel, even if inadvertently and in the face of all common sense, to hostile lands. Except that the only task at hand here is not to be killed. This is a tall order given that they are both fused bulbs and involves challenges like, a) not to be found out as illegal Indians loitering in Karachi; b) if found by either the authorities or terrorists, pretend to be Pakistanis/militants/moron jihadis; c) if found and captured by all one by one, try and remain in one-piece, thwarting all looming threats of buggery and bombs, and head to Papa Patel in Mother India.
So they, of course, run into all manner of terrorists, unintelligent Intelligence Officers, American Army commanders, greedy Baloch leaders, crafty Pakistani politicians, and more. And every time someone drives them close to the India-Pak border, to let them cross over and go home to Papa, they manage to turn around and go further in, once as far as Waziristan.
Kedar and Shammi are not your average, bumbling boys. They are seriously stupid and repeatedly get into the worst possible situations where fun is had at the expense of cliches: the stingy Gujarati always thinking of saving money, planning dandiya parties, worrying about screaming father; Karachi where someone is always firing or blasting; terrorists of all shapes and shades dotting the cities and mountains of Pakistan; Indians who will risk their life and limb to cheer for the Indian cricket team.
What stands out are a few skits plonked in these situations, like the World at War Demo for Dummies. This hysterical scene, in the diplomatic enclave of Karachi, has the grace and subtlety of Santa trying to explain to Banta who hates whom in our big bad world, amounting to a trigger-happy lampoon of the Americans, Israelis, Palestinians, Chinese, Russians, Ukraine, even Nepal, with India trying to order some chai…
That this World War 2.01 is set off by the presence of Shazia (Lauren Gottlieb), one part of the two-member team of very low IQ intelligence officers, may lead you to worry that the plot is going the usual way. But, thankfully, she has no job here except to, in the imagination of dirty Indians, transform into a pelvic thrusting item in lycra chaddis. Ms Gottlieb has impressive dancing skills, but zero item girl thrills.
Welcome 2 Karachi tries to be dark and comic, but it’s mostly a ha-ha-he-he satire where the joke is on all things — men and nations — macho and flexed. This description makes the film sound sublime. It’s not. It’s plain ridiculous and fun. It has the sort of jokes that you know are going to be dragged till our sides split. A senior terrorist, getting Kedar and Shammi ready for a mission, tells them, “Hamein tum pe fakhar hai”, and they reply, “I fakhar you.” Fakhar means pride, but it sounds like… Soon it’s a free-for-all, everybody wanting to fakhar and out-fakhar the other. It’s a relief to laugh at unabashedly idiotic and objectionable stuff.
Arshad Warsi, who outdid himself as the comic side-kick to Munna Bhai, flounders every time he is put in charge. That crackling timing and measured bak-bak seem to be a thing of the past. Warsi now has a better reputation as a comic than comic timing. He speaks too much, acts very little. And here he’s mostly cursory.
Thankfully, Jackky Bhagnani is around and doesn’t let the ball fall. His vegetarian Kedar Patel in Karachi, who cries loudly every time he thinks his best friend Shammi has abandoned him, is the film’s heart and soul. What struck me while watching him was how sincerely he had worked at being a Gujju boy, without ever allowing the star to leap out and connect with us, something Warsi does quite desperately, as if he were performing in our drawing room to earn his dinner. Jackky Bhagnani can now drop the double Ks. He doesn’t need them. He’s got talent and confidence and his commitment is endearing.