Corruption is rampant in many countries today. No work is possible without chai paani (bribe). Everyone must have experienced this ubiquitous nuisance. KHATTA MEETHA, a remake of the 1989 Malayalam drama film, VELLANAKALUDE NADU (which was again directed by Priyadarshan) is a satire on this perpetual menace. While it was a novel issue back then, it's been done copious times over the years.
Sachin Tichkule (Akshay Kumar) is a struggling road construction contractor in a small town who has taken loans practically from the entire village. But he still manages to wear sunglasses! Trigun Fatak (Manoj Joshi), Sachin's brother-in-law, is a corrupt chief engineer who works in the municipality. Suhas Vichare (Milind Gunaji) is a road contractor married to Sachin's second sister. Anjali (Urvashi Sharma) is Sachin's college-going sister.
While Sachin struggles through his never-ending woes, things go haywire. A bridge collapses because of bad construction, taking many innocent lives. Figun, Suhas and others who were involved in the construction, conveniently pass the buck to Vishwas Rao (Tinu Anand), who is a driver of the Tichkule family and later kill him. Azad Bhagat (Makrand Despande), who has lost his wife and son in the bridge mishap, is determined to bring to justice the criminals behind the scam.
The common man's troubles remain the central plot of the film. As if Sachin's miseries weren't enough, the new municipal commissioner turns out to be his ex girlfriend Gehna Ganpule (Trisha) who now loathes him.
The successful director-actor jodi of Priyadarshan and Akshay Kumar (HERA PHERI, BHOOL BHULAIYAA, DE DANA DAN) fails to entertain this time. Priyadarshan falls short to render the issue of corruption, which Rajkumar Hirani did effectively in portions of LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI. It has the right intent but offers nothing which we haven't seen. The screenplay gets monotonous with Sachin Tichkule constantly borrowing money, his numerous tiffs with Gehna, perverted acts of Rangeela (Rajpal Yadav) and random songs.
That a corrupt politician has maintained a file of all the wrong doings of his accomplices including himself, is inexplicable. It's ludicrous to see Azad Bhagat easily getting inside a politician's house and stealing important documents. The climax is too convenient to grasp.
There are a few laugh-out-loud moments like the one in which the road roller rams through Gehna Ganpule's house or when Karodimal (Asrani) is attending countless calls at the same time. But that's just about it.
With an excruciating long running time of 2.40 hours, the film drags. Music by Pritam except for the song Nana Chi Taang, is very poor according to his standards. Only V Manikanandan's choreography is neat.
Akshay Kumar's comic timing is impeccable but he is very loud. Trisha, who makes her Hindi film debut, is passable. She looks too young to be a municipal commissioner! Urvashi Sharma is decent. Johny Lever, who is seen after a very long time, is uproarious. Wish we could see more of him. Rajpal Yadav gives a superlative performance. Makrand Despande is effective in his small role. Manoj Joshi is impressive while Kulbhushan Kharbanda is good.
KHATTA MEETHA isn't sour or sweet. It's simply bland.