Friday will be crucial for comedy

By Subhash K Jha, IANS
4/12/2004 12:00:00 AM
The coming Friday is crucial for comedy. 

It will provide an answer to the question whether the trend set by Priyadarshan's "Hungama" and Raj Kumar Hirani's "Munnabhai MBBS" continues.

Ajay Devgan, who's successfully done comic roles in "Ishq" and unsuccessfully in "Hum Kissise Kam Nahin", returns in "Masti", a comedy about three philandering non-bachelors played by Vivek Oberoi, Aftab Shivdasani and Ritesh Deshmukh.

Shivdasani is no stranger to satire. He gave a good account of himself in the comic slant of E. Niwas' "Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega" and "Hungama". Will he prove third time lucky at comedy?

Unlike other comedies that are generally low-budget quickies, "Masti" is big in every sense.

Says producer Ashok Thekaria: "We've spared no expense to make sure that the laughs generate a durable audience. It's generally believed that comedies have no repeat value. Well, I beg to disagree.

"Have we forgotten immortal comedies like 'Chalti Ka Naam Gadi' and 'Padosan', which are seen to this day decades after they were made? I don't mean to compare 'Masti' with these all-time great comedies. But it has a certain zing and flavour to attract audiences. And look at the cast."

Interestingly, director Indra Kumar has earlier collaborated with Ajay Devgan on the out-and-out slapstick laugh-a-thing "Ishq". According to Thakeria, Masti takes Kumar into a totally new comic romp.

This seems to be the year when comedy is finally being taken seriously.

It's the year of Priyadarshan's followup to "Hungama". Called "Hulchal", it features Kareena Kapoor, Akshaye Khanna and Arshad Warsi.

While Khanna and Warsi whooped it up in "Hungama" and "Munnabhai" respectively, Kareena has never done comedy before. She says she is having a ball.

"I never knew doing comedy could be so much fun. But then I suppose Priyadarshan, who has made 'Hera Pheri' and 'Hungama' knows the art of laughter."

"Hera Pheri", the surprise success a couple of years ago, will soon have a sequel called "Phir Hera Pheri" with the same cast of Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty and Paresh Rawail but a different director - Satish Kaushik.

And Hirani, whose mirth-vehicle "Munnabhai MBBS" was the surprise success of 2003, is doing a satire called "Munnabhai LLB" on the legal machinery.

Anees Bazmi is putting finishing touches to the marital farce "No Entry" with Anil Kapoor, Salman Khan, Fardeen Khan, Bipasha Basu and Lara Dutta pitching in.

And Akshay Kumar, who loves doing comedies, is looking forward to the release of David Dhawan's "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi" with Salman Khan and Priyanka Chopra as his comic co-stars.

Dhawan had a semi-hit comedy "Ek Aur Ek Gyarah" in 2003 and is hoping to revive the raga of the risible even further with "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi".

Clearly, laughter is big business in 2004. Will "Masti" pave the way for the big comedies to come?

Anuj Sawhney, who was brilliant with his comic timing in "Nayee Padosan" and "Fun2shh" - both interactive three-hero comedies like "Masti" and "No Entry" - feels comedy can be fun for both the actors and the audience.

That is if "the timing is right to the point of being impeccable, and provided the comic material isn't crass or in-your-face.

"I personally enjoyed the participative ambience of both "Nayee Padosan" and "Fun2shhh" and hope to do more comedies. What better blessing for an actor than to bring laughter into the audiences' lives?"