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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Selfiee Review: Super-Fan Vs Superstar Battle Driven By Entertainment

Selfiee sees director Raj Mehta continue his spate of family-friendly stories post his previous releases, Good Newwzz and JugJugg Jeeyo. It is a remake of the 2019 Malayalam movie, Driving Licence. The Hindi version sees original producers Supriya Menon and Listin Stephen join forces with Prithviraj Sukumuran (also the lead star of the original), Karan Johar and Star Studios to back this movie.

Akshay Kumar plays Bollywood superstar Vijay Kumar. To complete a film climax in Bhopal, he needs to get a new driver’s license from RTO officer, Om Prakash Agarwal (Emraan Hashmi). Agarwal and his son are the megafans of Kumar, who never miss his movie in the theatres. Their wish is to get a selfie with the star. But this adoration, however, transforms into a sour misunderstanding. Subsequently, this leads to a war of words between the two, eventually escalating into a feud which plays out in front of the entire country.

It is very fascinating how the minor pursuit of a licence acts as a peephole to the social construct of modern India and capitalistic attitudes. Despite a Bollywood flavour added to the Malayalam picture, the makers do not go overboard in jazzing it up and try to retain simplicity. I have not seen the South versionso as a new viewer, it is refreshing to see the process for a driver to pass a test in India. Though initially, the premise was reminiscent of Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan. The film chronicles the struggle of every common person through the lens of a celebrity having to undergo the same thing. These insights are quite fresh, kudos to the original writer Sachy for this innovative idea.

The director’s trademark of flashy and quirky supporting male characters. First Diljit Dosanjh, Maniesh Paul and now Abhimanyu Singh. All of these personalities don shiny and blingy attire and provide comic relief, as well as new challenges for the story. Mehta previously explore societal subjects like IVF and divorce. Now he subtly explores topics like corruption and capitalism, with the help of humour. For a while now, Hindi movies have been delivering some cringe-worthy and regressive comedy. Thankfully, this is not the case here. The entertainment quotient is certainly increased with genuine laughs and one-liners. Hilarious performances by actors like Meghna Malik deserve credit for this too.

Unlike Raj’s previous movies, what to an extent lacks is an emotional depth to balance the thought-provoking subjects. Given that the movie showcases a fan’s broken heart and we all know that this can have a devastating impact on one’s mental health. Emraan’s character faces this but yet we barely see how he copes with his dream getting shattered. The juxtaposition of an innocent fantasy to the stark reality could have presented some relatable poignancy for the film. A similar thing can be said for Akshay’s character. Even though there is personal pressure for him in the movie, it would’ve been nice to see that even celebrities are vulnerable.

I also find that the roles of women in Mehta’s movies are powerful, even if the stories are centred on males. It is underwhelming that two talented actresses like Diana Penty and Nushrratt Bharuccha are not given the same due. Whilst they are not just flower-pot roles, it would’ve been nice to understand their individual struggles and emotions – rather than just the strong forces of both men. This again would’ve added more substance to Rishabh Sharma’s writing. Mrunal Thakur looks stunning in a guns-blazing avatar in ‘Kudiyee Ni Tere’ song.

It does not take much convincing for us to view Akshay Kumar as a superstar. His popularity and rise to stardom are already a testament to that. As an actor, he does his job competently and is his usual best. The real highlight here is Emraan Hashmi. His bright smile and twinkled eyes print a special place in your heart and he really encapsulates the spirit of a common man well. Given that he has a notorious ‘serial kisser’ image, a role like this will most certainly change the game for him going forward.

Even though the writing may not be the strongest… Emotionally, Selfiee is still an enjoyable watch. This a reminder of how ‘Bollywood’ is no longer just about the singing and dancing, but simple yet engaging storytelling where reality is the soul.

⭐⭐⭐ (3/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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