Tees Maar Khan (TMK) begins with a pregnant woman watching a 1970s caper where the hero plays a thief. “Abhimanyu apni maa ke kok se yudh seekh kar aaya tha, tera beta chor bankar aayega,” her husband chides her.
Cut to a shot of the foetus. It’s dancing to the tune of the chipmunk-styled Tees Maar Khan (the song you must have heard umpteen times over the past few days), even as it imitates what’s unfolding on TV. Cute, you may say. Or, get dumbfounded. But this scene is the closest you will get to a chuckle over the next two hours.
The 1970s seems to be Hindi cinema’s favourite go-to lately, either in setting (Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, Action Replayy), or substance (Dabangg, and now TMK). Director Farah Khan herself paid homage to the era with her first two films (Main Hoon Na is still her best, while Om Shanti Om was strictly mediocre).
In TMK, your ‘hero’ is Tabrez Mirza Khan aka Tees Maar Khan (Kumar), the greatest conman in India. “I’m a con artist,” he tells his girlfriend, a struggling actress.
Kaif is cast as Anya Khan, a bimbette who believes excess make-up is what will help her deliver a better performance. Casting Kaif in the role is probably the best joke Farah pulls off in the film.
With his three sidekicks, Dollar, Soda and Burger, Tees Maar Khan plans the biggest heist ever (or so we are to believe). It includes faking a film shoot in a village that falls en route the journey taken by the train carrying these ‘antique’ jewels, and enlisting the villagers as actors. It also entails convincing superstar Aatish Kapoor (Khanna) to play the film’s lead.
Kapoor missed his chance to star in an Oscar-winning film because his manager didn’t know the difference between Danny ‘Doyle’ and Danny Denzongpa, and has a back problem which prevents him from doing his own stunts. Hmm, now which real-life actor could that be based on?
TMK has a few things going for it, on paper. For one, there is no one better than Farah to explore the genre the film belongs to. The plot may be flimsy, but it has enough scope to include some really funny situations and thrilling stunts and to portray actor Akshay Kumar’s abilities in the best possible way.
Kumar, after scores of indifferent, grating performances lately, fits the role to the T. But blame it on the almost nauseatingly high number of mindless films you have seen him in the past two years, the impact is greatly diluted.
Khanna, on the other hand, performs the role of the superstar hankering for international fame with aplomb. If you can ignore the ugly wig on him, you will enjoy his reaction every time he thinks or speaks of the Oscar. “Gareeb Hindustani,” he grins at one point. That’s his ticket to superstardom.
Then there’s Sheila Ki Jawani. The song, mounted lavishly, is another Farah Khan special. Kaif looks like a dream, the song sets the right mood, and the Jhooma Chumma tribute is a delight.
But chutkulas and item songs don’t make a film. even if Shirish Kunder, the film’s story, screenplay and dialogue writer, and editor, background music scorer and co-producer — he makes sure his name appears at least six times in the credits, opening and end — doesn’t seem to think so.
Though the story is interesting (Neil Simon of After The Fox should ideally get the credit), the writing is so pedestrian and Farah Khan’s presentation so lacklustre that you wonder how the film was greenlighted at all.
The only possible explanation seems to be that Kunder chanced upon the DVD of After The Fox only recently. A script seems to have been readied in quick time. Actors were probably brought on board soon after and with Aamir Khan deciding to leave the Christmas weekend alone — he has delivered three superhits in three consecutive years around this time of the year — a deadline seems to have been set to ensure the film gets off to a record-breaking opening.
“But I don’t have Shah Rukh this time,” Farah Khan must have thought. Sheila seems to have come in as replacement. But it’s just not enough.
Final word? Tawaif ki lut-ti izzat shaayad bach jaaye, par Tees Maar Khan ko bachana namumkin hai.