Credited with directing one of Indian cinema's most successful comedies Andaaz Apna Apna, you'd think you were in safe hands in a Raj Kumar Santoshi film. Tragically for Shahid Kapoor, the director seems to be stuck in the past with this clumsy homily to escapist '80s comedy, the likes of which should never see the light of day.
While Vishwas Rao (Shahid Kapoor) dreams of becoming a movie star like his idol Salman Khan, his mother (Padmini Kolhapure) has aspirations of making him a respected police officer. Under the ruse of joining the Mumbai police academy, Vishwas heads for the bright lights of Bollywood to pursue his acting ambitions. When social worker 'Complaint Kajal' (Ileana D' Cruz) confuses him for a real police officer, Vishwas hits upon a way of carrying on the charade with his mother, until they both become unwittingly embroiled in a covert police caper.
His portrayal of a man who dreams of becoming an actor like Salman Khan seems to hint at Kapoor's own ambitions for the kind of super stardom that has so far eluded him. Here, he reinvents himself as a hero for the masses in a commercial role that requires him to play every card in his acting repertoire and Kapoor goes for broke, giving his all to provide comic antics at every turn. An impromptu and brilliantly camp dance sequence in the Paradise Club and a stand-off with a director are highlights and Kapoor is every inch the action-hero in the elaborate fight sequences.
Kapoor is, however, the fulcrum holding the chaos of this film together. As the dippy love interest with a social conscience, Ileana D'Cruz appears to have forgotten the fundamentals of delivering a line, as she bounces into scenes with shrill regularity. Presented in a modern incarnation and glossed up for what level to vastly over-worked music videos, no amount of seductive pouting or soft-focused, smouldering shots will compensate for the complete absence of chemistry in this ill-matched pairing.
Film veteran Padmini Kolhapure initially seems like a good casting call, till you realise she brought the worst excesses of her own era of cinema with her in her portrayal of the long-suffering mother.
With a litany of '80s rejects comprising dons, moustachioed villains, bumbling cops and a messy plotline that leads nowhere, you are willing it to stop. And if you do manage to make it through to its conclusion, the 'Let's Go Bananas' song will surely send you over the edge.
Salman Khan himself isn't hero enough to save this film.
All credit to Kapoor who inexplicably emerges from the ruins of this movie unscathed. If nothing else, it has all the components for a brilliant showreel for the vastly underrated actor who showcases his versatility at every turn.
Dated, desperate and stuck in another era, Shahid Kapoor is the only reason to watch Phata Poster Nikhla Hero.