It is no coincidence that the title of Kapil Sharma’s debut film has three K’s in it. After all, Sharma’s smash hit TV show Comedy Nights With Kapil is not so different from Ekta Kapoor’s K-soaps, although you wouldn’t think so at first glance. The difference, I propose, is largely technical.
Kapoor’s shows feature women with industrial quantities of make-up. Sharma’s shows feature women with industrial quantities of make-up who are actually men. Kapoor’s women spout all manner of regressive horse manure. Sharma’s women spout all manner of regressive horse manure before you realise that they are actually men. In Kapoor’s shows, 20 years can pass by in the blink of an eye while watching Sharma fat-shame his colleague-in-drag can feel like something that was deemed vaguely funny 20 years ago.
The “director duo” (that’s how the credits introduce ’em) Abbas-Mustan should know a thing or two about 20 years ago: they stopped the clock circa 1995, after Baazigar and before Daraar. In the latter, they had introduced Bollywood to Arbaaz Khan, who for some reason won a Filmfare Award for his villainous role as an abusive, overly possessive husband. More than two decades later, Khan has been cast again by the directors director duo, in Kis Kisko Pyar Karoon, a film littered with such terrible performances that Khan ends up looking like a method actor (he’s playing a deaf and nay-too-bright underworld don).
But I digress: this film is mostly about Abbas-Mustan trying to cash in on Sharma’s TV stardom and the roots of said celebrity: namely, his regressive, big brother, “soft” patriarchy jokes that obviously appeal to our anachronistic directors director duo. And thus we meet Kumar Shiv Ram Kishan, a generous man with a small paunch and a large heart: through a ridiculous series of ’90s Bollywood escapades, he manages to marry three damsels in distress (Manjari Phadnis, Simran Kaur and Sai Lokur) one after the other, while also managing not to break up with his girlfriend (Elli Avram). Kishan must have hit his head somewhere during the three weddings, because he then proceeds to buy no less than four flats in the same apartment complex, the suggestively named Cocktail Towers; the fourth is for his friend and lawyer Karan (Varun Sharma) who is used to cleaning up his mess.
The wives, predictably, are not people so much as outdated concepts: there’s the sultry vixen Simran (Kaur), whose legs get rather more screen time than the rest of her; there’s the earth mother Anjali (Lokur), who’s only interested in baby clothes; and finally, there’s the karva-chauth champion Juhi (Phadnis), who has the most hackneyed, un-funny catch phrase of them all: “bhagwaan aisaa pati sabko de” (May God bless every woman with a husband like mine). Our directors director duo have such faith in Sharma’s powers that they even shoot a straight, unironic romantic number with him and his teen deviyaan, where Sharma makes awful SRK faces while shooting at the beach, the desert, the Poles.
Needless to say, all of this does not make for very appetising viewing. Sharma keeps saying things to his wives like “Darling, abhi rehne do, waise bhi tumhaara toh 24 ghante mood rehta hai.” (Not now, please darling? You’re in the mood 24 hours anyway.) This one, of course, is intended for Simran the vixen, whose arrival onscreen (generally in a “negligible négligée”, to borrow a Vikram Seth phrase) is unfailingly accompanied by saxophones, the harbingers of hyper-sexualised women in Bollywood since Helen. Sharat Saxena and Supriya Pathak look tired and a little embarrassed to be in this film: I sympathise on both counts.
Kis Kisko Pyar Karoon is likely to end Sharma’s ambitions as a Bollywood funny man, at least for the foreseeable future. And here I was thinking that nothing good could come out of this…