Sonntag, 2. September 2007

Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006) - Review in English

About the story: Murli Prasad Sharma, called Munnabhai (Sanjay Dutt) has left a large part of his criminal activities to his right hand man Circuit (Arshad Warsi) for some time. Each day he spends hours listening to the lovely voice of the radio-host Jhanvi (Vidya Balan) he has fallen in love with. With the aid of some heavy-duty cheating, Munna wins a Gandhi-competition she is holding on her radio show and therefore gets to meet her. During the meeting he pretends to be a history professor. When Jhanvi asks him to give a talk on Gandhi for the seven senior citizens who she looks after as her "children" in her "2nd Innings"-House, Munna agrees and then finds himself spending day and night in the library in preparation for the talk. With the aid of Gandhi’s ghost (Dilip Prabhavalkar), who appears to him for the first time in the library, Munna gradually becomes an expert on Gandhigiri, Gandhi’s teachings. He does not only attempt to practice them himself but also tries to introduce them to other people. He specifically tries out Gandhi’s concept of non-violent resistance on the property developer Lucky Singh (Boman Irani) who promised Jhanvi’s house to the businessman Khurani (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) – and who is decidedly underwhelmed by Munna’s provoking kindness...

If someone wonders what happened to Dr Suman whom Munnabhai married at the end of the movie Munnabhai MBBS, or why Boman Irani plays a completely different character from the one before: Lage Raho Munnabhai (= Don’t give up Munnabhai) is a sequel to Munnabhai MBBS but it does not continue the story of the latter movie. The two central characters, Munnabhai and Circuit, mainly become the central characters of a completely new story. This concept already worked well with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy and provides opportunity for an unlimited number of further movies featuring the two. The next, in which the loveable crooks end up in the USA is already in the pipeline, and neither producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra nor director Rajkumar Hirani, let alone the two leads, Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi (whose on screen chemistry is becoming ever more amazing) leave any doubt that they are more than willing to produce Munnabhai movies well into retirement age provided they do not run out of ideas and the public still wants to watch them.

This much as an introduction/preview, now back to the second Munnabhai movie. Sequels are frequently in the danger of not fulfilling the high expectations with which they are anticipated, especially when the first movie was as phenomenal a success as Munnabhai MBBS. However, Chopra and Hirani managed to pull off a movie which not only succeeds in fulfilling these expectations but even surpasses them. At the box-office Lage Raho Munnabhai became one of the most successful Hindi-movies of all times, and the awards this movie collected the way other people collect stamps are more than deserved: Not only does the movie once more combine entertainment, comedy, emotions and seriousness with a light touch, it also inspired a hitherto unknown Gandhi-renaissance in India: Books on Gandhi became bestsellers, universities introduced new courses on Gandhi and young people started to look seriously into Gandhigiri. This alone is sufficient to ensure a place of honour in the annals of Hindi cinema for this movie.

But even apart from that Lage Raho Munnabhai would be an obvious must-see. I have to admit: I am hopelessly in love with this movie. I have not been attacked with this much concentrated love and kind-heartedness for ages. As in Munnabhai MBBS Chopra and Hirani bring home their message without patronising or preaching. One absorbs the messages while laughing or crying with Munnabhai and Circuit or doing both at once, and they are retained the better for it. Even the appearance of the ghost of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi himself is not at all embarrassing or out of place as Dilip Prabhavalkar portrays him in a dignified manner which also includes some gentle humour, and his interaction with Munnabhai (who is the only one who is able to see him) is free from any exaggerated awe on Munna’s part who talks to "Bapu" as uninhibitedly as he talks to Circuit.

In the part of Munnabhai Sanjay Dutt sparkles with his inimitable charm leading a cast which as a whole is excellent and acts with visible enjoyment. Vidya Balan is charming as Jhanvi and one readily sees why Munna has fallen in love with her warm voice alone (and does so even more when he finally meets her in person). Boman Irani is a pleasure to watch as the vain property shark who in spite of all his shady dealings is still nice enough that one is willing to join Munna and the others in saying "Get well soon". Jimmy Shergill has a smaller part this time round but he is convincing as the despairing Victor d’Souza whom Munna helps with his Gandhigiri in a difficult situation. The same is the case for Diya Mirza in her small part as Lucky Singh’s daughter Simran. And I have once again become very fond of Arshad Warsi who this time, apart from being the cool and tough bhai-sidekick, is able to show a full range of emotions, and in this, too, shows himself as an inspired partner for Sanjay Dutt who is well known for depicting raw emotion on screen in a manner rivalled by few.

Not least because of this the part of a gangster with a soft heart and a disposition of childlike innocence is so well served by him, specially since Sanjay Dutt shares many of the characteristics with this character. "Sanjay Dutt IS Munnabhai", Rediff remarks, "it is like a role he was born to play." These are my feelings exactly. I would just add that in the same way Arshad Warsi was born to play Circuit. For his great achievement in Lage Raho Munnabhai, Sanjay Dutt received several best actor nominations (Global Indian Film Awards, Star Screen Awards, Filmfare Awards, Zee Cine Awards, IIFA Awards) as well as awards: Critics Choice Award of the GIFA, Star Screen Critics Award, Stardust Star of the Year Award, Zee Cine Critics Award, India Splendour Award... The film itself got loads of awards too and was even honoured with the prestigious National Award.

Of course, for me Sanjay always is going to stay an incarnation of Khalnayak and Raghubhai, too (not to mention his divine Yamraj) but first and foremost he is our Munnabhai. In this guise may he continue to produce many sequels.

Produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra; Directed by Rajkumar Hirani
144 Min.; DVD: Eros, English Subtitles (including songs); Bonus DVD with "M.B.B.S. Looking Back", "Making of Music 1 and 2", "Making Of LRM", "Munna meets Bapu" and "Munnabhai M.B.B.S. to Lage Raho Munnabhai"
© Diwali; Translated by gebruss
Showcasing LRM

P.S. After watching Lage Raho Munnabhai, it might be interesting to revisit Kabzaa where Sanjay already in 1988 was confronted with Gandhi and certain aspects of Gandhi’s teachings… ;)

P.P.S. The LRM-Screenplay was published by Om Books as a paperback book in 2009.

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