Happy New Year (2014): Farah Khan's hackneyed orgy of excess

A triumph of profligacy over artistic freedom

By Murtaza Ali

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Happy New Year, Directed by Farah Khan, starring Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Abhishek Bachchan, Boman Irani, Vivaan Shah, Sonu Sood and Jackie Shroff
Happy New Year (2014) By Farah Khan
Our Rating: 5.0
IMDb Ratings: 7.1
GenreAction | Comedy | Crime
CastShah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Abhishek Bachchan
Country: India
Language: Hindi
Runtime180 min

Summary: A team of losers win the love of millions in their quest to pull off the biggest diamond heist ever by team India.

Happy New Year is the fourth and latest offering from choreographer-turned-director Farah Khan. Based on a screenplay by Althea Kaushal and Farah herself, Happy New Year stars Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Abhishek Bachchan, Boman Irani, Vivaan Shah, Sonu Sood and Jackie Shroff in major roles. The movie also features cameos from Dino Morea, Prabhu Deva, Malaika Arora Khan, Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Dadlani, Sajid Khan, Anupam Kher, and Geeta Kapoor. Happy New Year is produced by Red Chillies Entertainment and distributed worldwide by Yash Raj Films. The movie’s plot revolves around a Boston University Graduate named Charlie (played by Shahrukh Khan) who assembles a team of misfits in order to exact revenge against a ruthless diamond mogul, Charan Grover (played by Jackie Shroff), who destroyed his father and took over his business. The team needs to pull off a diamond heist in Dubai so as to raze Grover’s empire to ground. But, to make the heist successful, they must first qualify to the finals of the World Dance Championship. Well, if it weren’t already complicated enough, the team has only a few weeks at its disposal to learn the intricacies of dancing right from scratch. Doesn’t it already sound like a fabulous fantasy? It is for such instances in Fiction that English poet S. T Coleridge had introduced 'Suspension of Disbelief', according to which, a viewer or a reader takes a semi-conscious decision to put aside his disbelief in order to accept the premise for the sake of his own amusement.

Shahrukh Khan as Charlie in Happy New Year, Directed by Farah Khan
Shahrukh Khan as Charlie in Happy New Year
Before I digress any further, let me first come straight to the point and ask myself the most critical question: Is Happy New Year worth a watch? Well, the answer is Yes… and No. Yes, if you are someone who is not really interested in the content of a film as long as there’s enough gloss and star power to keep you engaged. No, if you go to a cinema hall to actually watch a movie for its cinematic value.  Yes, if you are otherwise getting bored to death and have nothing else to keep yourself busy with. No, if you mind watching movies that have glaring plot holes. While Happy New Year has a lot to offer to a non-serious filmgoer, a serious viewer may, at times, have to look into the most distant corners to search for that elusive chunk of substance. Now, I am not saying that Happy New Year would bore a serious viewer to death. In fact, the movie has all the elements of a quintessential Bollywood masala movie: songs, music, dance, crappy action, nonsensical humor and risqué dialogue. Happy New Year can best be described as an orgy of excess. An intelligent viewer would do well to prevent himself from getting unsettled by this naked display of extravagance.

Deepika Padukone as Mohini in Happy New Year, Directed by Farah Khan
Deepika Padukone as Mohini in Happy New Year
Farah Khan seldom disappoints her audience. She neither overpromises nor under delivers. Happy New Year is exactly what she promised it to be—a fun-filled Diwali extravaganza. And, it is exactly what the masses generally expect from the big production houses during the Indian festival season—a brainless entertainer. Consistency doesn’t come easy. But, the lady seems to have mastered it already in her short filmmaking career. Happy New Year is made for an extravagant budget of INR 1.5 billion (USD 24 million) and it clearly shows. As far as the masses are concerned, the overabundance of moolah almost always makes up for the lack of creativity on the part of the makers, and, hopefully, Happy New Year will not prove to be an exception to this general trend. Farah Khan is a legend in the field of choreography. But, as far as the art of filmmaking is concerned, she is still a toddler—a stubborn one at that. There is nothing wrong in being a toddler as long as one is willing to learn and grow. Artists, not unlike children, ought to test their limits from time to time or choose stagnation over constant evolution. Alas, neither Farah nor her team seems interested in embracing change! There is no denying that she makes movies with a lot of heart, it’s time she started putting her mental faculties to good use as well. Probably, one day she will surprise us all by making a genuinely good motion picture. Till then, we can, the ones among us who chose to, take refuge in her escapist adventures. That’s the least reward we can offer for her hard work. After all, making a film is no child’s play!

Happy New Year: The Ensemble Cast, Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Boman Irani, Vivaan Shah, Sonu Sood, Directed by Farah Khan
Happy New Year: The Ensemble Cast
In Happy New Year, Farah  and SRK seem so obsessed with the idea of making self-congratulatory remarks to their own works that they completely forget that the audiences deserve to be fed with something new every once in a while. They fail to grapple with the fact that banality is not always what the audiences crave for. It’s quite strange to believe that even with 150 crores in one’s kitty, an ensemble cast of actors with proven track records, a creative team that surely can think, what one barely manages is a movie that's nothing but an excess of clichés. Had Farah and her creative team spent half as much time on thinking as SRK seemingly spent on toning his physique, there is no doubt whatsoever that we would have had a film that’s worthy of both its budget and talent. But, instead what we have on display is a half-cooked escapist caper which lacks all the essential elements that define the very genre: high speed car chases, vertiginous jumps, voyeuristic escapades, blood-cuddling shootout sequences, etc. Obviously, the heist lovers are bound to be left disappointed. Yes, Happy New Year is entertaining in a conventional sense, for it does make one laugh, but then any half-decent clown can do that without creating much fuss. Buffoonery doesn't make thespians out of hams and a bunch of buffoons terribly misdirected by a team of pseudo-intellectuals who think they understand cinema don’t make a worthy motion picture, let aside a masterpiece.

SRK's and Deepika Padukone's nonexistent chemistry, Directed by Farah Khan
SRK's and Deepika's nonexistent chemistry
The world of cinema today finds itself at the crossroads. In a bid to satiate the ever growing demands of the money mongering business moguls the creative aspects of cinema are often forced to take a back seat. The commercialization is not new to cinema and is something that cannot be done away with. After all, everyone has the right to eke out a living. However, what is worrying is that the business sharks that rule the movie arena merely treat cinema as a money making instrument. This naked opportunism is not only undermining the efforts of the great visionaries of cinema like Georges Méliès, D. W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, Dadasaheb Phalke, Charles Chaplin, Yasujiro Ozu, Sergei Eisenstein, F. W. Murnau and Fritz Lang, who had nurtured cinema with their blood and sweat, but is also posing a great threat to its evolution as an art form. People often forget that cinema has an enormous potential to inspire pessimists and reshape nations. So, the onus is upon the intelligentsia to realize cinema’s untapped potential and protect it from becoming a revenue generating instrument in the hands of a bunch of self-centered, myopic individuals, whose sole aim is monetary profit. Today, SRK is not merely a name, but a brand—a marketing phenomenon in itself. His perennial charm is a testament to his grit and gumption. Someone of SRK's influence and stature is expected to be the lynchpin of the crusade against commercial escapism in Hindi cinema, but it’s rather unfortunate that he actually seems to be leading the pack of perpetrators.

Jackie Shroff as the menacing Charan Grover
Overall, Happy New Year proves to be the epitome of commercial escapism in Hindi cinema, popularly known as Bollywood. In paying homage to yesteryear films like Shalimar, Raja Rani, Deewar, Tezaab, Mohabbatein, Don, and Chak De! India, Happy New Year seems to be compensating for its own lack of originality. Happy New Year propagates a strong current of patriotic fervor perhaps as a gimmick to woo the masses. Like it is so often said in politics that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, in cinema, star power along with the right dosage of patriotism and obscenity, among other such provocative elements, is the last refuge of those who lack the creativity to offer something new and unique to their audience. The standard of acting in Happy New Year ranges from average to bad with the exception of Jackie Shroff who is an absolute treat to watch as the movie’s menacing antagonist. Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Dadlani are obnoxious in their cameo appearances (regardless of whether it's deliberate or not). The nonexistent chemistry between SRK and Deepika Padukone can be a real concern for voyeurs. While Happy New Year is a marked improvement on her previous film Tees Maar Khan, Farah Khan continues to be blissfully dawdling in vacuum completely indifferent to the needs of her audience and unaware of her own profound lack of novelty. Happy New Year is a perfect example of how easily one can squander both money and talent. It’s a triumph of profligacy over artistic freedom. However, the good thing is that it will make truckloads of money. Now that the damage has been done, one can only hope that a substantial part of the money that it almost seems certain to make goes in the service of cinematic art. Happy New Year maybe the Diwali blockbuster that the masses want but it most certainly is not the movie that they deserve.  

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!  


1). IMDb

2). Wikipedia

Happy New Year (2014) Trailer (YouTube)

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  1. I know which movie I am NOT watching.

  2. True to the last word. I was so disappointed... thou I liked the movie. Timepass as I would call it. It so lacked all the love, romance, emotion bit.. even action. Songs cud hav been avoided n movie shorter by 30 mins or so. Shahrukh is best in romantic roles but alas ... there is no heroine left anymore for him. They are too good. Good review!

  3. Glad you liked the review... they don't make films like DDLJ anymore and SRK's films minus romance are just not the same i.e. unless he has some seriously good filmmaker (likes Farhan Akhtar, Abbas-Mustan or
    Ashutosh Gowariker) pulling the threads!!!


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