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 Hyderabad Blues 2
Director :
Starring :
 Nagesh Kukunoor
 Nagesh Kukunoor, Jyoti Dogra, Tisca Arora

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS Send to Friend

All right, the good news first. Nagesh Kukunoor's "Hyderabad Blues" sequel is just the appetizing stuff we were all hoping for.

After his grossly underrated "3 Deewaarein" last year, Kukunoor needed to return to his roots. The small but engaging film takes capricious semi-satirical swipes at middleclass mores.

Varun Naidu hasn't changed since we last met him six years ago. Still toothy and a bit flustered by the great Indian chaos, the most radical change in his life since we last met him is the dissolution of his green-card status.

If the original film celebrated the otherness of the foreign-returned dude with an attitude, "Hyderabad Blues 2" (HB2) celebrates his oneness with the spirit of chaos in Hyderabad.

The backroom jokes and the all-boys' babble over a game of cards are among the highlights of HB2 - arguably the smartest, sassiest sequel this country's cinema has produced.

I don't think any film has so effectually been able to capture the spirit of corny, lascivious but innocuous camaraderie among male friends as they discuss - what else? - women and sex, in that order.

Back home there's Varun's strangely disaffected-looking wife Ashwini (Jyoti Dogra) pining to experience birth pangs. Her plotting and planning with best friend Seema (Elahi Heptoolah, delightfully free-spirited) to get her husband to comply with her fertility ambitions make the sequel far more 'sexy' than the earlier film.

Sexy of course is a 'relative' term in "Hyderabad Blues". The relatives come with the territory in the couple's togetherness. The manner in which Kukunoor portrays the whole familial scenario makes him a disarmingly subverted Sooraj Barjatya.

"I don't know which of you I should kill first," Varun rolls his eyes at his parents after they mess up his one chance to get back with his sulking wife.

Oh, didn't I say? The baby plans in Varun and Ashwini's cosy life dissolve into a divorce-like situation after Varun nearly commits adultery! Or rather commits mental adultery. Whatever!

The voracious new floor manager Menaka (Tisca Arora) in Varun's office, who happily admits she has 'made a career' out of seducing her bosses, gives Varun a peer into her cleavage. And a disgruntled staffer - pulled up earlier for sexual harassment - squeals to Varun's wife about the could've-been-adultery.

The rest of the story follows a craggily comic and quirky path, with Ashwini sending her repentant husband back to the US. It's a bit of a been-there-done-it-all marital drama but played out at an unusual octave.

We almost expect a last-minute airport reunion between the couple. But aha! Kukunoor is smarter than we think. He delays the inevitable. The reunion comes at an expatriate cousin's traditional wedding where, amidst the sounds of marital vows, Ashwini sobs her sorry to Varun.

On the surface, HB2 follows all the rules of the traditional romantic comedy. It has the chirpy chutzpah of a Woody Allen fable and the musical aspirations of a traditional Hindi romantic musical - the sporadic songs on the soundtrack are sensibly introduced into the narration.

But beyond the savvy dialogues and the raunchy-and-comic rituals of romanticism, Kukunoor creates a world of lived-in characters who seem to have been onscreen long before G.S. Bhaskar's quietly inquisitive camera was switched on.

While Kukunoor is so in-character as Varun that it's impossible to imagine any other actor replacing him, Jyoti Dogra's performance lacks sunshine.

Playing the realistic versions of the roles that Anil Kapoor and Tabu did in "Biwi No.1", Elahi Heptoolah and to a lesser degree, Vikram Inaamdar, as the protagonist's friends are delightful.

Heptoolah as the busybody running home and a marriage bureau is such a natural, we wonder if she knows what many Kukunoor's characters don't: that life can be taken seriously only at the individual's own risk.

Curiously, Kukunoor introduces homosexuality into the picture a little late in the day, when Ashwini's doctor-colleague -- in a sequence that's somewhat contrived and badly acted -- confesses his sexual preference. "I'm not ashamed of being gay. But it's the loneliness that bothers me," he says.

The character's confession stands out in a film and a scenario where no one is ever alone, or given the chance to be lonely. Swarming with characters and teeming with remarks that replicate the rhythms of the educated middleclass, HB2 is the most likeable multiplex film in ages.

The hybridised Hindi-Telugu-English dialogues, which were undoubtedly the USP of "Hyderabad Blues", are the laugh-line in this charming tale of heartbreak and laughter in the city of the Charminar.

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