Selfiee Review – Watch at your own risk

Selfiee Review - Watch at your own risk
Selfiee Review - Watch at your own risk

Selfiee Review – Watch at your own risk: Dharma Productions deserves a lot of credit. Even though the company has made some of India’s most famous commercial films and characters in the post-liberalization era, it seems to have perfected the art of completely misinterpreting the source material. It takes the essence of the original and throws it away as if it were just decoration, then adds a lot of glitter and humor to what’s left. First, they took all references to caste out of the Marathi movie Sairat (2016) and made Dhadak (2018), which is based on a story about how cruel caste is. Now we have Selfiee, which is based on the Malayalam movie Driving Licence (2019). The movies based on the books are not bad in and of themselves. They have a sense of rhythm in the way they tell stories, and the music in the background keeps your eyes from getting tired. They are telling a story, but they are missing the point.

After hosting Javed Akhtar at bash, Ali Zafar slams him for remarks against Pak

Let’s start with Driving Licence, which is a strange and wonderful revenge story with two heroes, a fan and a movie star. Kuruvilla, a fan and Regional Transport Office (RTO) inspector (Suraj Venjaramoodu), turns on his idol, superstar Hareendran, because of a misunderstanding (Prithviraj Sukumaran). Hareendran needs a driver’s license for a movie he’s making, but Kuruvilla won’t give it to him. The movie is about one question: When does wanting to be respected become a show of your ego? Driving Licence is interesting because it doesn’t make clear who the main character is and who the bad guy is. There is no right or wrong here; just two men’s egos fighting with each other. During the course of a scene, your feelings change from fan to star to fan. The biggest danger is to self-respect as it hardens and turns into ego.

In the movie Selfiee, Akshay Kumar plays the star and Emraan Hashmi plays a fan, which completely goes against this logic. In Driving Licence, Prithviraj gives Hareendran an arrogance that is both cocky and annoying. His anger is big and loud. His frowns explode. His edge makes him cool, and his edge keeps pushing the story forward and making the fan think. Hareendran gives Kuruvilla the middle finger in one of the most angry and stylish parts of the movie.

The Hindi version doesn’t even try to be half as shocking. Selfiee seems to have a contract that says they can’t have an edge. Akshay Kumar plays Vijay, who can’t even raise an eyebrow to show that he finds something funny. He wants to help people and is a dull version of what Dharma Productions wants us to think Bollywood stars are like. He is the opposite of #BoycottBollywood because he is such a flaccid nothingburger that no one would even notice him enough to boycott him. Kumar even tells us at the beginning of the movie that he’s not the hero and that he loves his fans and owes his success to them, just to make sure we don’t forget that the movie is made up. This is what’s wrong. Selfiee thinks that its audience is stupid and can’t tell the difference between a picture and the real thing. And yet, it has the nerve to make a dumb audience watch a smart movie.

Vijay is the main character of the movie in almost every way. Emraan Hashmi is cast as the bad guy, RTO sub-inspector Om Prakash Agarwal, in this lazy rewrite. With his smirks and sudden bursts of that rounded Bhopali accent — yes, Selfiee takes place in Bhopal — his ego keeps coming to the surface.

Why did Bhopal happen? Like Malayalam movies, which like to set their stories in a local, lived-in world, Selfiee’s Bhopal is at best a visual break, allowing for some great shots of the city as a sports car speeds through it and giving the main villain an accent that is neither polished nor comfortable. Everything about this Bhopal is sad, including the food, clothes, theaters, and the way houses are built and decorated. Selfiee is shot by Rajeev Ravi, who also directed No Smoking (2007), DevD (2009), and Bombay Velvet (2015). His frames have leaked sepia and color with such a reckless sense of art, and he has made smoke look like puffy clouds coming out of round mouths. Yet Ravi’s frames in this movie have the most annoying lighting. For example, the dining table is dimly lit so that the fluorescent blue fish tank will stand out. The bright, flat interiors and the bright, flat lighting of the face make it hard to tell if it’s morning, afternoon, or night. In the last hour of the movie, the tension comes from a flight that needs to be caught, but the light doesn’t seem to change at all. It’s as if Bhopal’s daytime is stuck in place. Ravi seems to have been hired to do the exact opposite of what his filmography promised. It seems like Dharma Productions is on a mission to steal talent until it is hard to tell who did what.

After hosting Javed Akhtar at bash, Ali Zafar slams him for remarks against Pak

Selfiee loses its edge by trying to make Vijay a star. The idea behind the movie was to show that both the hero and the fan are normal people whose love for each other is not always unconditional. The director, Raj Mehta, and the writer, Rishhabh Sharrma, try to spice things up with regular, timed jokes. Mehta knows a lot about this, which is a good thing. The humor, which includes a dressed-up actress farting in the arms of her lover during a shoot, has an unstable quality that completely dissolves any tension and steamrolls over any emotional changes. Take the tense moment when Om Prakash’s wife (Nushrratt Bharuccha) calls him after seeing him getting beat up on TV. She asks him if he’s okay because she saw how many people were bothering him. She says “pel diya,” and the humor in that phrase is such a sharp contrast to how serious the situation is that I burst out laughing in the theater.

A movie like Selfiee needs to be a delicate dance between funny moments and sad ones. Most of all, it needs to grow up to get to this point. But where would you find this in a movie that just looks at a text and throws away what it means?

Selfiee Review – Watch at your own risk


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