Planet Bollywood
Lage Raho Munnabhai
Producer: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Starring: Sanjay Dutt, Arshad Warsi, Vidya Balan, Boman Irani, Dia Mirza, Jimmy Shergill (S.A)
Music: Shantanu Moitra
Lyrics: Swanand Kirkire
Genre: Comedy
Recommended Audience: General
Approximate Running Time: 2.5 hours
Film Released on: 01 September 2006
Reviewed by: Irfan Makki  - Rating: 9.0 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.11 / 10 (rated by 410 viewers)
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Opinion Poll: Has Munnabhai Delivered?

Sequels, besides being a rarity in Bollywood, have hardly ever lived up to people’s expectations. So when an innovative producer like Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who hasn’t really believed in or followed a formulaic approach towards filmmaking, decides to go ahead with a sequel, eyebrows are bound to be raised. After all, sequels in Bollywood, whenever made, have usually been devoid of even the closest hint of novelty. But as I walked out of the theatre after witnessing Munna Bhai’s second coming on the big screen, I was convinced that if done right, sequels in Bollywood can actually be highly entertaining.

Sanjay Dutt’s Munna Bhai became a household name when he challenged Dr. Asthana’s authority by entering his medical college in a bid to avenge his old man’s insult in the hilarious, yet wonderfully crafted “Munna Bhai MBBS”. So what is the new chapter in Munna Bhai’s life really about? It’s about Munna’s obsession with a spunky, vivacious radio jockey, Jhanvi (Vidya Balan) whose voice brightens his days and rules his nights. In a bid to win her love, Munna yet again has to rely on his ubiquitous henchman Circuit (reprised by Arshad Warsi) to aid him in his testing mission. And what’s more, he even gets help from a reappearing Mahatma Gandhi who returns from the past, decides to take matters in his own hands and sets out on a mission to instill some discipline, morality and responsibility in our otherwise-untroubled hoodlum. What follows is one lie, some confusion, inspirational, yet non-preachy pep talks by Gandhi and a lot of big, genuine laughs.

Although the second chapter too, revolves around Munna’s conquest of love, the similarities with the first film end right there. Writers Hirani and Abhijat Joshi have treated the sequel as a second chapter completely disconnected from the first one - a strategy that would have backfired had it not been penned properly. Usually, it becomes difficult for audiences to connect with a sequel where there’s a lack of continuation from its predecessor. However, in the case of “Lage Raho Munna Bhai”, Hirani and Joshi have cleverly kept the major essence of the first movie intact with the two protagonists (Munna and Circuit) being their usual selves. In fact, the excitement of experiencing the reunion of our two beloved thugs is so overwhelming and the outcome so engrossing that at the end it becomes very easy not to question the lack of continuity between the two movies.

The sequel has an underlining message nicely wrapped with wit and humor. The movie addresses the deviation of a common Indian from the very principals of humanity represented aptly by Gandhi. In fact, Hirani and Joshi have smartly incorporated Gandhi’s character into the narrative to symbolize forgotten morals and ethics – a move that works wonders not only for good onscreen humor but also provides an opportunity to convey relevant, ethical and social messages with sublime subtlety. But the fact that “Lage Raho Munna Bhai” carries a serious social message doesn’t stop the movie from being uproariously funny. It’s got extra laughs and more amusement than its predecessor with a constantly pumped up supply of humor that keeps the viewer completely hooked - so much so that the interval only acts as a disruption. Though it does tend to get larger than life at times with the songs not really needed, it still ends up being far more sensible, identifiable and enjoyable than the usual leave-your-brains-at-home comic flicks that Bollywood has lately become synonymous with.

Extremely well-directed, “Lage Raho Munna Bhai” will be instrumental in establishing Hirani as a highly sought after name in Bombay’s Tinsel town. Already having excelled with the pen, Hirani successfully turns his high-on-content script into an absorbing movie – an effort proving that the director in Hirani is as competent as the writer in him if not more. Hirani’s directorial prowess is further enhanced by the exceptional work of his two lead actors – Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi. If you think that Circuit is yet again playing second fiddle to Munna, you’re wrong! This time around, the droll duo plays joint-protagonists. The fact that Arshad has been given almost the same screen time as Sanjay, reinforces the director’s faith in his abilities. While Warsi’s brilliant portrayal of Circuit gets the wittiest lines of all, overshadowing Munna occasionally, Dutt brilliantly exhibits Munna’s confusion, agony and tenacity. Vidya Balan, though relegated to the background mostly, flashes her intoxicating smile, shows off her trendy wardrobe and mouths her lines with the right emotions. Boman Irani, as Lucky Singh, yet again shows off his immense versatility and provides ample reasons to tickle one’s funny bone. Besides the lead characters, the supporting cast are more than competent and contribute aptly.

Sequels rarely match up to their forerunners. However, in the case of “Lage Raho Munna Bhai”, not only does the sequel live up to colossal expectations but also manages to outsmart and outwit its precursor. When people discuss the movie and repeat jokes from it on their way back home once the show over, you can easily tell that the movie served its purpose of entertaining its audience. When the whole audience gives a standing ovation to a movie when the end credits roll, you can safely assume that they enjoyed the past two and half hours. This is a movie that remains true to itself and its audience by entertaining them, making them cry and getting its point across. Enjoy it while you can as Dutt is only getting older with time and it shows. But something tells me, this might not be the last we have seen of Munna Bhai and Circuit!

Maamoo, Bolay Toh Aik Dum Raapchik picture hai kya! Bolay Toh Aik Dum Jhakaas!

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