There is one thing Namaste England gets absolutely right—Punjab’s obsession with immigrating to the UK by means both legal and illegal and at a great personal cost. The state has given kabootarbaazi a new meaning and people who can help you get there are fuelling a cottage industry, not always at the right side of the law.
That, discerning audiences, is the only thing the Arjun Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra film gets right. Once you have patted Namaste England on the back for taking up a subject with serious social ramifications, you have already pushed it too far. For beyond this thought is a film so silly and tedious that the one star I have given it feels like my good deed of the year done.
Not even a shadow of 2007’s Namastey London—not a classic by any account but very much an entertaining watch—Namaste England gets everything wrong from the very first scene. Where the Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif film had its moments, Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra’s movie—along with the rest of the team—has a puerile storyline, hammy performances and dialogues so dreary, they leave you seething with murderous rage.
Instead of a film, it feels like 135 minutes of an improv session with the audience left holding the bill. Namaste England appears to be set in a village near Amritsar where the entire young population has just one job—to fool Parineeti Chopra’s ultra-conservative grandfather and facilitate her dates with Arjun Kapoor. He, by his own admission, is a farmer and an MSc in agriculture who has never seen farming. Talk about expensive education gone waste!
Other than marrying Arjun’s Param, Parineeti’s Jasmeet has only one dream – to become a successful jewellery designer. As a woman controlled by her daarji and veerji, she hopes that her marriage with a forward-looking Param will set her free. Daarji has his own plans though. He says yes to Jasmeet and Param’s wedding on one condition – Jasmeet will never be allowed to work outside her home. Daarji :1, feminism: 0.
Jasmeet, like the rest of Punjab, decides that she and Param will just have to relocate to London for her to live her dreams. But there is a problem—Param has a frenemy who has vowed that he will never let him get a visa and this frenemy has some serious contacts. They could have shifted to Delhi or Mumbai or Chennai or just told Daarji to take a hike but no, who wants common sense when they can have hammy performances and melodrama?
Common sense takes a beating and Namaste England enters a la la land of its own making with seductresses in blingy outfits and rich dudes with two expressions. As you wonder who truly sleepwalked through the film—its director or scriptwriter—the dialogues emerge as clear winner.
In fact, Race 3’s ‘our business is our business’ will just have to accept it now, it has got competition. Sample this: ‘Jawaan Punjabi ladkon ko UK ka visa milna utna hi mushkil hai jitna terrorists ko swarg milna’ or ‘Mujhe bakwaas karne se mat roko warna mai ro padunga’. Our dear Daarji also comes up with this gem: ‘Mard ka farz hai aurat ka pet palna aur aurat ka usse bacche dena’.
Not just the dialogues, the feel of the movie is highly regressive. For all its trendy dresses and highlighted hair, Namaste England can move to the 70s, no questions asked. Feminism is paid little more than lip service and the role of modern woman, as played by Parineeti, raises more questions than answers. Last year’s Badrinath Ki Dulhania, even though it had its own issues and a constricted world view, had more pop and verve than this ill-advised venture.
The two stars, Arjun and Parineeti, do Namaste England no favours. If Ishaqzaade crackled with their chemistry, here Arjun substitutes hamming for acting. It appears as if Arjun realised just how terrible the project is and decided to contribute to it. The film’s lowest point is when Arjun delivers a nationalistic speech on how India managed Mangalyaan at the price of a rickshaw ride to a Britain-born confused desi—the scene needs both an acting coach and fact checking.
Parineeti’s half-baked character is hard to identify with and her quizzical looks in the film mirror our own. Why would A-list actors work with an A-list director in a film made on a good budget and come up with a film so shoddy and sexist? This is a project that should end careers and for a good reason.
The biggest loser, however, in all of this is England. After LoveYatri earlier this month and now Namaste England, we completely agree with the above confused desi when he says Britishers should stop giving visa to Indians. Or at least to Indian film crews till better sense prevails.