It’s tough being a critic today. You have to form a solidly reasoned opinion on a piece of work in a very short span of time, sometimes just a few hours. Once you put it out, you have to deal with angry creators who send mobs of online fans after you, with armchair know-it-alls who pore over your work like it’s a board exam mark sheet, and then, if you’re lucky, you get paid enough money to have three meals a day for a couple of weeks. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, now you have to compete with comedians?!
But putting professional grudges aside, the recent trend of comics LARPing as critics is not just great entertainment, it’s also a new avenue for different, often unique, perspectives on long-cherished film classics. It can be hilarious to watch a comic tear apart your favourite childhood movie one joke at a time, but it also makes you think about how and why you were so attached to these movies in the first place. And there is true value in parting the curtains of nostalgia, and peering at an old classic in new light.
Karunesh Talwar On ‘Koi Mil Gaya’
Karunesh Talwar is in epic form here as he takes aim at the absurdities and low-budget sci-fi of Koi Mil Gaya, the first film in the Krrish trilogy. He hits a few high notes during the bit, but one joke that stood out particularly was about how the film repurposed the melody of In Panchiyo as the homing signal for the alien Jaadu, an act of sheer laziness that makes him exclaim “ek aur tune to bana le aalasi, there are people doing unpaid internships.” It’s funny, but it also contrasts the struggles of those at the bottom of the industry food chain against the liberties taken by those at the top. Judging by the audience reaction, the joke landed pretty well.
Pete Davidson & John Mulaney On Clint Eastwood’s ‘The Mule’
As hilarious as Pete Davidson and John Mulaney make this movie sound; what they might have missed in their review, is that is film is actually based on a true story of an 87-year-old man Leo Sharp also known as El Tata who was an American World War II veteran, horticulturist and drug courier for a branch of the Sinaloa Drug Cartel. Also the film casually stars actors like Bradley Cooper, Michael Piña and Andy Garcia (who was rude to Mulaney at a Laker Game once, yes Mulaney, we remember).
Now that we’ve got the boring facts out of the way, we can talk about how Mulaney and Davidson lampoon the bizarre wish-fulfillment fantasy that sees a 90-year-old white man become a drug mule, have not one but two threesomes, and then get an “employee-of-the-month” party for good performance. I mean, what?! The high point of their review is when Mulaney calls the movie a “superhero movie for old people, about a guy whose superpower is that he can drive unsupervised.”
True story or not, the review makes me want to watch the film just to witness Clint Eastwood unwrapping an ice-cream sandwich while driving and hamming out to jazz music.
Mohd Suhel on ‘Tarzan The Wonder Car’
Tarzan The Wonder Car was India’s next big scifi film after Koi Mil Gaya. Suhel’s deadpan style perfectly exemplifies the ridiculousness of the plot; the only thing that is worth emphasising here is that the car is actually the hero of the film, which is a strange creative choice because it means that there is no real arc to any of the other characters. The car just goes around murdering people, and that’s the plot. Raj, the protagonist, does not have to overcome any shortcomings or obstacles to become the eventual person he was meant to become because it’s all done by the car who is later revealed to be driven by Ajay Devgn’s ghost. Okay then.
Apart from the interesting little formal experiment of this video—it features him performing the same joke to different audiences seven times—this bit also showcases Suhel’s charming classroom-gossip delivery, as he lands more and more absurd punches with absolute matter-of-fact sincerity. Not recommended for Ajay Devgn stans though.
Kanan Gill and Biswa Kalyan Rath on ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’
Kanan Gill and Biswa Kalyan Rath just had to be on the list, right? When Pretentious Movie Reviews came out six years ago, it almost single-handedly kicked off a wave of YouTubers looking at classic films in a new light. Now, of course, streaming services have taken that idea and turned it into shows like Behensplaining—content that markets their other content.
This review of Hum Saath Saath Hain is a great example of what made Pretentious Movie Reviews such a phenomenon. For one, it’s ridiculously funny. Two, their analogy of the joint family system to a multicultural organisation is actually quite a fascinating insight. The joint family system is more complex than the “happy together” façade that the film represents; joint families to a certain extent do perpetuate chauvinistic gender roles. With many generations living under the same roof, the whole idea of respecting and obeying the eldest generations ensures that the lowest generation (male or female or other sexes) has the least amount of freedom to grow into their authentic selves. It’s a perspective that evaded most people reviewing the film at the time of original release, but thankfully Gill and Rath are there to pick up the slack.
Third: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVDABLUXYZ! (if you know, you know)
Abhishek Upmanyu on ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara’
Abhishek Upmanyu has become one of India’s favourite comedians in the past few years. What I enjoy most about his bits is that a lot of his humour comes from pointing out logistical and practical issues. For instance, I’ll never forget a joke from one of his old sets: in explaining the difference between Delhi and Mumbai culture, he says, a guy once angrily told him, “saale talwar maar dein kya tujhe?” Upmanyu responds with “Metro mein Talwaar leke kaise laaya tu?”
Upmanyu’s take on ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ comes from a similar place; he points out the obvious fallacy of a particular sub-species of Bollywood movies, which assume that rich protagonists with a lot of money having beautiful—and pricey—experiences is universally relatable. The joke makes me wonder if Arjun, Kabir and Imran could have had the same epiphanies if they went to say, Pachmarhi? Now wouldn’t we want to see that movie? Zoya Akhtar are you reading this?