Consensus among critics is rarely complete, in part because critics are also critics of other critics, which makes the whole enterprise like high school with bigger vocabularies and a lot more mentions of Ingmar Bergman. Critics catch a lot of shit, often deservedly so, because being a critic without being an asshole is a tightrope, from which an awful lot of professional critics fall to their nasty, capricious, ill-informed deaths (except this metaphor doesn't work because the motherfuckers simply do not die).
Most of the time when critics all unite and declare that a certain picture sucks, it does. Critics, assholes or no, usually know a bit about movies, and most bad movies aren't subtle about being bad, so a really bad movie will get everyone piling on. Every so often, though, one wonders what the fuck is wrong with the critical community. Just about every movie lover can think of at least one “what the fuck were they thinking” picture. One such is the recently released Tees Maar Khan.
I will not pretend to fully understand the reasons in the Indian critical community for panning Tees Maar Khan as viciously as they have. I've been told it's because they want to take the director, Farah Khan, down a peg, either because she's a woman or because Tees Maar Khan isn't enough like her previous picture Om Shanti Om, which was a big hit, or because the wrong megastar actor was in the lead. People are blogging about it, calling the entire Indian critical community a bunch of assholes. It's a giant mess.
I'd like to be able to evaluate the situation evenhandedly, but hey, this is a blog. Every so often I need to remember that, and my responsibility to be a flame-fanning shithead. I saw Tees Maar Khan. If you don't like this movie, you're a fucking Dalek. Everything about Tees Maar Khan is awesome. Nothing about it sucks. Yeah, yeah, yeah, “it's silly,” “the comedy's of a low-brow variety,” “it's politically incorrect.” Suck this, you nitpicking jagoff. I laughed so fucking hard at this movie I almost sprained both ankles. The prosecution rests.
The irony of so many of the bad reviews citing the fact that it was a remake as one of the reasons why it sucked is that the picture that it's a remake of, the 1966 Vittorio De Sica/Peter Sellers flop After The Fox, got a shit-ton of negative reviews its own self upon its initial release. The two pictures share a similar kind of satire of the movie business, and the respective national movie industries in which its directors work(ed), but where the similarities end is that After The Fox was written by Neil Simon, and Neil Simon can get fucked with a chainsaw. Neil Simon is the Jane Fonda of comedy writing: he sweats blood setting up every single awful, laboriously delivered joke, all to the end of utter failure. This makes After The Fox—more irony, if you aren't full to the point of nausea already—the perfect candidate to be remade: an otherwise promising picture with one or more glaring flaws that, if fixed, could yield a result either interesting or even good. Vittorio De Sica was a good director and a smart guy who unfortunately had bills to pay, needed a hit, and talked himself into doing a script by Neil Simon, then a hot playwright who'd yet to write a screenplay. Director and writer clashed, because the director wanted to make the movie interesting, and the writer was a choad. The result was, the critics hated it and the picture flopped, though it's since developed a bit of a cult following (composed of diehard Peter Sellers and Neil Simon fans), and it is notable for attempting to do some interesting stuff, even if those attempts were sunk by Neil Simon's leaden failure.
Tees Maar Khan has the distinct advantage of having been written by someone who was actually funny, in this case the director's husband Shirish Kunder and the picture's editor, Ashmith Kunder. This, combined with Farah Khan being clearly more in her element with this kind of picture than Vittorio De Sica (who, nothin but love for the cat, was a little more at home making heartbreaking “holy fuck” movies like The Bicycle Thief) makes Tees Maar Khan an absolute delight. It's also making a shitload of money, so there.
Leading man Akshay Kumar is kind of a god. As the title character—the “half Robin Hood” because “he robs from the rich . . . but he does not give to the poor”—Akshay Kumar is all that is male. He swaggers magnificently. He has that ineffable quality of Movie Star that is necessary to making a movie star picture. One does not, as the poet said, simply walk into Mordor; you can't just cast any old fuckin dickhead in a movie and tell the audience he's a badass. You need to cast a badass. (Ed. Note: I couldn't read the squiggly writing in the Hindi-English dictionary but I'm pretty sure it said “Akshay Kumar” means “He who shall fucking wreck your shit”)
So the story is basically, Akshay Kumar is Tees Maar Khan, a master thief with a penchant for Zen-like similies about what a badass he is (hey, self-awareness is a great thing), a knuckle-gnawingly hot girlfriend (Katrina Kaif; I don't mean to leer, but there's a shot of her ass in this movie that turned me black for five minutes) and a coterie of loyal, retarded henchmen. The cops lose TMK on a flight from Paris to Mumbai that involves a thoroughly hilarious and hilariously thorough establishment of TMK as a fucking legend, involving the magnificent swag of Mr. Akshay Kumar.
Once TMK lands, he has to deal with his jealousy over his aspiring actress girlfriend through the medium of dance, and with his mom not knowing he's a master thief; he's told her he's a movie director. This subterfuge, naturally, comes back to haunt him later when a pair of Siamese twins hire TMK to steal a massive amount of treasure off a moving train and TMK decides to stage a fake movie production as subterfuge.
This involves a wonderful sequence where TMK has to pose as Manoj “Day” Ramalan, successful American filmmaker, to convince movie star Aatish Kapoor (Akshaye Khanna, aka the Indian Bill Pullman . . . it is amazing how exactly like a younger Bill Pullman with a better tan this cat is, they even spaz out the same) to be the lead in this imaginary movie. It turns out that Aatish desperately wants an Oscar, since Anil Kapoor (playing himself and looking like he's tripping on laughing gas for all his scenes) got to go to Hollywood and make Slumdog Millionaire. Why not me? says Aatish.
Akshay as TMK cockslapping M. Night Shyamalan and having more fun than is legal in most of the world doing so, adopts an “American” accent and bullshits Aatish into doing the movie, promising him this will be his Oscar role. This scene is piss-yourself funny for several reasons:
(1) M. Night Shyamalan directing a movie that wins Oscars? HahahahahahaSo TMK brings Katrina Kaif out to be the girl in the movie and they go find themselves this tiny little-ass town in the middle of nowhere with an extremely high “caricatured for comic effect” demographic (so what it's contrived? It's a fucking movie) where they set up shop. TMK and his dudes kill time getting into comic misadventures with the locals, robbing the local bank, stumbling upon a bunch of weed dealers in the middle of the woods who pretend there's a headless horseman haunting the woods to get civilians to fuck off, and shooting a bunch of really bad footage. Katrina Kaif acquires gays who serve as makeup/hair support and entourage, as any proper movie star should. (This, tangentially, is something I liked about this movie: it's a lot more gay-friendly than one might expect. Sure, flaming is played for laughs, but not maliciously. Ah, ya know, Rome wasn't built in a day.)
(2) TMK's henchmen do hilariously inappropriate caricatures of gay movie biz dudes
(3) M. Night having gay assistants
(4) “Manoj 'Day' Ramalan”? I'm pretty sure that joke gets you elected God.
(5) Akshay and Akshaye kill shit.
Eventually, right after shit almost gets serious for a couple minutes, the cops save the day by driving the treasure train up to be robbed. TMK's movie hijacks the train and he, his dudes, and the Siamese twins manage to elude the cops with all the goods, but the Siamese twins pull a fast one on TMK and he, his dudes, and everyone in the village ends up getting busted for robbing the train.
After a trial so chaotic TMK's lawyer does two of the funniest, droopiest spit takes ever committed to film, TMK cops to the whole crime by himself, accepting responsibility for his actions. Kind of. Everyone decides to finish the movie, which they do, and naturally there's a big glitzy premiere, which TMK is allowed to attend, having been the director. And he escapes, of course, because he's international criminal Tees Maar Khan.
I'm all out of fancy-schmancy movie nerd shit to say about Tees Maar Khan. It was just fucking fun. It's two hours, ten minutes and I literally think there were five minutes total in the whole movie where I wasn't laughing. The hero's cool, the girl's beautiful, the supporting players are colorful. The music numbers are good, and the main theme is catchy as hell.
Usually, I can understand why the critics whomp on something, no matter how much I enjoy it. Not in the case of Tees Maar Khan, not on the objective merits of the movie. Sure, if it's some political thing that I don't understand having to do with the context of a culture and movie industry I know next to nothing about, okay. But this very thing might make Tees Maar Khan the perfect picture for someone not familiar with Indian cinema (i.e. me) to enjoy. It's apparently got scads of in-jokes that went right over my head (if there was any significance to Salman Khan showing up to do a cameo for one dance number other than that it was awesome, I missed it), but even without that, it's such a goofy, cracked-out, awesomely hilarious movie that it doesn't matter. So yeah. Watch the shit out of this. But with friends, and not necessarily sober, even though—bizarrely—we all were the other night (unless the other four blazed without me, fuckers). Anyway, the point is, this is a party movie, to be watched with people who know how to let their hair down. Or alone. But that hair? Down. This is not negotiable.