I have to admit that I have been a closet Priyadarshan fan…why closet you ask? Well, I had never watched any of his movies in the theater…always on DVD (sometimes pirated) or on TV. But today I changed that. Armed with popcorn I went for the first day first show of Maalamaal Weekly.
I was told that it’s a rural comedy. Rural it was alright, complete with Bhaiya accent and curiously South Indian homes. Oh well, why get into the details. The setting is a village called Laholi where after a long spell of drought the starving villagers have sold or pawned everything to the evil Thakurain Karamkali (Sudha Chandran, sporting colored lenses and ironed hair). Her brother Baaj Bahadur aka Baje (Rajpal Yadav) terrorizes the villagers with his power. Lilaram (Paresh Rawal) is supposed to be the only educated fellow in the whole village who sells tickets from Maalamaal Weekly lottery to the villagers. He sells a ticket to the village drunkard Anthony (played by Malayalam actor Innocent, voice by Tikku Talsania) which wins the first prize of Rs 1 crore. The drunkard dies before claiming the money and half the village gets involved in an elaborate charade to impress upon the lottery inspector (Arbaaz Khan) that Anthony is alive and keep the money in the village. Saying anything beyond this will be giving away the kahani mein twist and there are quite a few.
Priyadarshan has made an original comedy this time (as opposed to remake of his Malayalam hits). It’s fast paced with quite a few laughs and some really hilarious moments. Mercifully there’s only one song in the movie which felt like a gratuitous cleavage show for the front benchers. Maalamaal Weekly boasts of an ensemble cast of very talented actors like Om Puri (playing to the gallery with great gusto), Asrani (good to see him in a substantial role after a very long time), and not so talented like Shakti Kapoor and Arbaaz Khan. Then there is Ritesh Deshmukh as lover boy wooing designer village belle Rima Sen …both has too much city kid body language to pass off as villagers…but you can ignore them. Just watch Paresh Rawal, Om Puri and Asrani. Innocent as the dead Anthony reminded me of Satish Shah's dead D'souza in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. Tough act to follow, but he is quite effective. Rajpal Yadav in a completely over the top role is great…he’s funny even when he’s trying to be sinister (ok, I’m a bit partial to him…but he is good!)
Maalamaal Weekly has its flaws. It defies logic most of the time and could have been trimmed down a bit, but over all it’s a time pass movie with a message. What message you ask? Leave your thinking caps at home and go figure it out!