Star cast: Akshay Kumar, Trisha, Urvashi Sharma, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Rajpal Yadav, Johny Lever.

Plot: Akshay is a road contractor who dreams big but doesn’t have the resources to realise his dreams. His task becomes all the more difficult because the new municipal commissioner turns out to be his ex-girlfriend, Trisha.

What’s Good: Some comedy sequences, a couple of songs.

What’s Bad: The very convenient screenplay.

Verdict: Khatta Meetha is for the masses and the single-screen audience, not so much for the multiplex audience.

Loo break: A couple of them, post-interval.

Hari Om Entertainment Co., Shree Ashtavinayak Cinevision Ltd. and Cape Of Good Films Pvt. Ltd.’s Khatta Meetha is a comedy that turns into a family drama after a point. It is a remake of the Malayalam film, Vellanakalude Nadu.

Sachin Tichkule (Akshay Kumar) is a road contractor living in a town of Maharashtra. He dreams big but doesn’t have the resources to realise his dreams. He lives with his father, Ramakant Tichkule (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), mother (Aroona Irani), elder brother, Harish (Paritosh Sand), two elder sisters and their husbands – Suhas Vichare (Milind Gunaji) and Trigun Fatak (Manoj Joshi) – and their families, and an unmarried sister, Anjali (Urvashi Sharma). Almost all the family members either hate Sachin or are fed up of his style of living and working. Sachin’s brother and two brothers-in-law are also in related fields of work.

One day, Sachin’s brother and brothers-in-law get into serious trouble when a bridge they have contructed, collapses, killing many people. Azad Bhagat (Makrand Deshpande) is a common man who loses his family in the bridge mishap and rather than accepting monetary compensation, he wants the culprits to be booked and punished. However, the wrong-doers make their driver, Vishwas Rao (Tinnu Anand), a scapegoat who is arrested and soon thereafter, set free on bail. As per plan, they also get the driver murdered. But Azad Bhagat continues his fight for justice.

Meanwhile, Sachin is trying hard to land a big contract from the municipal corporation. To make matters more difficult for him, the new municipal commissioner turns out to be his ex-girlfriend, Gehna Ganpule (Trisha), with whom he had had a break-up after a fight over an ideological issue in college. Sachin wins a court case he has filed against the municipal corporation but because the latter does not have funds to clear his dues, the court orders it to hand him a road roller.

The difficulties Sachin faces with the road roller, the trick he adopts to seek revenge on Gehna who doesn’t clear his road, the twin tragedies (Gehna’s suicide attempt and Anjali’s death) that shake Sachin, and Azad Bhagat’s murder that makes Sachin and Gehna join forces to bring the wrong-doers to book are all part of the more serious second half.

The film has a hotch-potch story and a hackneyed screenplay which cares little for logic and a lot for convenience. It is not clear to the audience whether Sachin is corrupt or clean. For, if he is corrupt, why are his brothers-in-law and elder brother always so angry with him? After all, they should consider him as one of them. And if he is clean, why is his father, a retired judge, so annoyed with him always? Furthermore, while the upright father is shown to be constantly making snide remarks about Sachin, he never resents what his elder son and the two sons-in-law do!

Sachin’s fight with Gehna in college also looks half-baked. For, however noble may have been Sachin’s ideology, Gehna refusing to boycott the examinations, as suggested by Sachin, doesn’t seem a wrong move. Resultantly, the audience doesn’t know whether to applaud Sachin for his ideological stand or Gehna for her principled stand. Again, it is just not explained whether Gehna, as municipal commissioner, is not favouring Sachin in the discharge of her duties (which is not wrong by any stretch of imagination) or she is intentionally not co-operating with him, to seek revenge for his snub during the college days. Gehna attempting suicide when she is accused of accepting a bribe from Sachin looks rather far-fetched and unbelievable. Similarly, Gehna has such a quick change of heart when she is recovering in hospital that it looks too contrived.

Azad Bhagat revealing the truth about Anjali’s death to her brother, Sachin, is yet another weak link in the drama. In short, the screenplay has so many twists and turns which are contrived that it is not funny! The dialogues are so lengthy, especially those mouthed by Sachin Tichkule, that they often get on the audience’s nerves.

Some comedy sequences are highlights and bring the house down with laughter. In fact, the first half is light and entertaining. It is the second half which is the problem area.

A major drawback of the film is that what begins like a comedy takes a rather serious turn after interval and becomes a family drama thereafter. The look of the film, its making, the ambience, all give the viewer the feeling that he is watching aSouth remake of the eighties, an era gone by.

Akshay Kumar is earnest but that’s only one part of the story. He talks so much – and so loudly – that he often gets on the audience’s nerves. He is, of course, funny at places but that’s not enough. Trisha is no heroine material. To add to her tale of woes is the fact that she has been presented as a plain Jane in her first Hindi film. Urvashi Sharma is reasonably nice. Kulbhushan Kharbanda does a fine job. Makrand Deshpande is effective. Rajpal Yadav entertains as Akshay Kumar’s (Sachin’s) sidekick and labourer, Rangeela. Johny Lever evokes laughter in a brief role. His acting is superb. Milind Gunaji gets little scope and he is okay. Manoj Joshi acts well. Asrani leaves a mark with his seasoned performance. Paritosh Sand is alright. As the main villain, Jaideep (in the role of Sanjay Rane) is fair. Atul Parchure is natural. Neeraj Vora has been wasted. Aroona Irani also does not have a single scene that’s worthwhile. Tinnu Anand is good. Others fill the bill.

Priyadarshan’s direction looks dated and except in a few comic scenes, he doesn’t seem to be in great form. Music (Pritam Chakraborty and Shani) is racy. ‘Aila re’ is a mass-appealing song and its picturisation is energetic. ‘Sajde’ and ‘Nanachi taang’ (for Maharashtra) is quite alright. Situations for the songs look forced. V. Manikandan’s cinematography is reasonably good. Sets (Sabu Cyril) are alright. Editing (Arun Kumar) is anything but sharp.

On the whole, Khatta Meetha has masala for the single-screen audience and small centres but not enough for the multiplex viewers and the public in the big cities. Its theatrical business will be disappointing and, therefore, those distributors who’ve paid high prices for acquiring the film, may lose part of their investments. Business in Maharashtra will be better due to Maharashtrian characters and flavour. The producers may not lose much because of a fancy recovery from pre-release sale of satellite rights.

By Komal Nahta

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