Lage Raho Munna Bhai Review
Murli Prasad Sharma, alias Munna Bhai (Sanjay Dutt), is a dim yet kind-hearted fellow doting on the dulcet tones of his favourite radio DJ, the beautiful and charming Jhanvi (Vidya Balan). After bluffing his way through a phone-in contest on the subject of Mahatma Gandhi with the help of his equally dense sidekick Circuit (Arshad Warsi), Munna gets a chance to chat with the love of his life at the studio. In explaining his Gandhi competition win, Munna blurts out that he is a university professor with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Mahatma. Impressed, Jhanvi promptly invites him to give a lecture on Gandhism to the residents of 2nd Innings House, an old folks home owned by her grandfather. The only problem is that Munna is actually a mafia goon currently doing a little ‘repossessing’ work for fiendish construction company owner Lucky Singh (Boman Irani). Unable to bare telling Jhanvi the truth, Munna buries his head in every Gandhi biography he can find in order to keep up his pretence. Soon however, his intense studying begins to give him hallucinations and an image of the Mahatma himself soon appears before him from out of nowhere with some sage words of advice. Could Munna’s ‘chemical locha’ hold the answers to his problems?
In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new trend that has swept up India’s movie-going public in recent months and it goes by the name of Gandhigiri (‘Gandhi-ing’ - a play on the term ‘Dadagiri’, or ‘bullying’). Acts of injustice are being dealt with not through violence, but with peaceful protests. Not garbage, but bouquets of flowers and ‘Get well soon’ cards are being barraged at the proponents of ill behaviour – and all with surprisingly positive results. Yes, the simple but effective weapons of Gandhian values are once again out in force in India, and the reason? A sudden increase in Gandhi teachings in schools? Nope. Politicians urging citizens to take heed of his principles? ‘Fraid not. It is actually all thanks to a pair of half-wit gangsters from the streets of Bombay – Munna Bhai and Circuit, Bollywood’s answer to Laurel & Hardy. Munna is barely even aware of Mahatma Gandhi (“Oh, the rupee note guy!”), never mind one to preach about him and spends most of his time knocking some heads together and referring to an awful lot of people as ‘mamoo’ (maternal uncle, or in this case ‘dumb-ass’). Meanwhile, sidekick Circuit is equally gormless and forever decked out in cheap bling and naff red-tinted specs. And yet, these two rowdies are now movie heroes thanks to their adventures in 2003’s smash hit comedy Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. and now once again here in Lage Raho Munna Bhai (‘Go On, Munna Bhai!’), a sequel of sorts. Like the work of Stan and Ollie, there is no connection between the films, but the unmistakable characterisations remain intact.
Writer/director Rajkumar Hirani deserves a pat on the back for putting together this extremely worthy follow-up to ’M.B.B.S.’. With the dreaded sequel curse showing no sign of rearing its ugly head here, Hirani has in fact delivered such a thoughtful, heart-warming and hilarious picture that ’LRMB’ actually improves upon its already sterling predecessor. Juxtaposing Munna Bhai’s goon lifestyle and Mumbai street slang with Gandhi’s moral stance and eloquent speeches is a stroke of genius which could have every right to lead to some lazy scripting since the gags almost write themselves. Nonetheless though, what follows is two-and-a-half very short hours of a truly inventive story that mixes all the commercial ingredients necessary to pull in the crowds, but is woven together with an enlightened and sophisticated narrative that will allow virtually anyone from any walk of life to enjoy and buy into it. By using the tried-and-tested Bollywood conventions of singing, dancing, broad farce and romantic subplots as tools to reach the widest audience possible, ’LRMB’ does a far more effective (not to mention fun) job of spreading its message than other more sombre Gandhi-themed films such as Hey Ram and Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara.
Acting-wise, not one cast member puts a foot wrong with leading man Sanjay Dutt effortlessly bringing to life his alter ego of Munna. Dutt was so clearly born to play this heavyset softie role that it is bewildering to believe that the part was originally offered to Shah Rukh Khan – a move that would have been akin to casting Tom Cruise as Robert De Niro’s character in Analyze This. Sanjay is now approaching 50 and his trademark haggard appearance actually also serves to unintentionally make Munna’s love story with Jhanvi (wonderfully played by 24-year-old Vidya Balan) all the more sweet. Older actors cavorting around with girls half their age is nothing new in Indian musicals, but Dutt’s warm and sympathetic performance of Munna makes Jhanvi’s reciprocation highly delightful for a change. Neither Sanjay nor Vidya steal the show however; that honour must surely go to the revelation that is Arshad Warsi’s side-splitting turn as the loveable Circuit. Only given limited screen time in ’M.B.B.S.’, here he deservedly finds himself a bona fide partner-in-crime and even receives the bulk of the best lines. Warsi has impeccable comic timing and smooth dialogue delivery that overshadows his fellow actors at times and undoubtedly is the highlight of an already fabulously enjoyable Hindi comedy. Bollywood flicks don’t come much more perfect than this and with an important, yet non-preachy message to deliver to boot, I’m sure even the Mahatma himself would approve.
Another nice mess. That’s the only way to describe this dodgy DVD release of Lage Raho Munna Bhai by Eros International, a company that’s never shy to boast about the massive quantity of films in their vaults or the equally hefty amount of cash at their disposal. When it comes to supplying quality products for their consumers however, they are clearly just as ill as Lucky Singh. This disc is in NTSC format, but has been copied from a PAL video source, which in turn has been improperly converted from a 24fps master. So not only are we getting the usual ghosting that goes with bog-standard interlacing, but duplicated frames as well giving a horribly blurred and jerky picture. Rounding off the muck-ups is a dreadful amount of MPEG compression problems that are also on display. Points may be awarded for some wonderful colour/contrast rendition, an absence of any print damage and a thankfully correctly-framed (if slightly cropped) anamorphic widescreen presentation, but this doesn’t make up for such an amateurish transfer.
Things happily improve somewhat on the audio front with a mostly clear 5.1 Dolby Digital track. Still, not all is well, as the mix sounds rather soft and weak, not packing the punch it should. Some of the dialogue tends to come across slightly garbled on occasion as well, which again sounded more a problem with the DVD encoding rather than the original recordings.
A bonus DVD comes bundled with this release and includes a five-part, 98-minute documentary on the making of the film and a short promo made up mostly of clips from both ’LRMB’ and Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.. The documentary drags at times, but on the whole is an interesting enough look at the movie with all the main participants from the cast and crew offering their thoughts and, as always, gushing with praise.
No subtitles are supplied for the second disc (the majority of which is in Hindi), however the main feature on disc one includes an English subtitle track. With so much Tapori Hindi slang featured in the original dialogue (think Cockney or ‘Jive’), it was never going to be a simple job translating the lines in a coherent manner into another language while also maintaining the difference in speech and characterisation as well as the humour. Eros have made a fairly decent attempt at this and succeed at times, but too often the translations just wind up either too far out/crude or just the opposite by being overly formal. The song lyrics are particularly inaccurate and bare little resemblance to the original lines. Eros also distributed ’LRMB’ in English theatres where it ran with a completely different and far more credible subtitle translation, so I can’t fathom why the same track couldn’t have also been featured here.
Lage Raho Munna Bhai is one of the finest Bollywood movies of the Noughties thus far, gaining mass appreciation both at home and abroad and will even represent India as an independent entry at next year’s Oscar nomination process. Hopefully if the film does go on to even greater acclaim we might then one day also see it treated with a little more respect on a home video format. Get well soon, Eros.
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