Director: Anees Bazmee | 160 minutes | action, drama, comedy, romance, musical | Actors: Akshay Kumar, Nana Patekar, Anil Kapoor, Mallika Sherawat, Katrina Kaif, Feroz Khan, Paresh Rawal, Malaika Arora, Vijay Raaz
Ha, happy! This time no sluggish remake of an American film, a “deep” or well-intentioned message, cringe-worthy melodrama, or sugary romance. No, “Welcome” is a smooth, cheerful comedy with a perfect cast and a healthy dose of self-mockery. This amusing Bollywood film plays with the clichés from this “genre” and actually gives the viewer the feeling of being welcomed with open arms. As if, just like the actors and actresses, he is part of this crazy film. A film that does not always hit the right note and goes on for at least half an hour too long, but that will undoubtedly put a smile on the viewer’s face at many times.
“Welcome” is clearly recognizable as a Bollywood film: There is spontaneous singing and dancing, a good dose of romance, humor, and the film has a running time of just under three hours. But where these elements can sometimes offend the Western viewer because the bombast and the melodrama drip off the screen, everything is very acceptable here because it is all encapsulated in a self-aware context. Everything is presented with a wink. When our hero Akshay Kumar walks into a burning building and discovers the beautiful woman in need there in slow motion, the director makes use of this obligatory form in a comical way. The woman knocks off the flames and breaks some wooden slats, but all in the same “romantic” slow motion. And Kumar’s eventual rescue doesn’t go quite the way he – and the viewer – imagined it.
The gangsters form their own sitcom, with bizarre mannerisms and funny tics – like the exclamation “control,” or the way of taking off the (very cheesy) glasses on one of them. And everyone has been assigned the ideal role – the gangsters are not intimidating, but are funny wannabes and gentle “giants” and do what they have to do. Kumar is also in the right place as the ideal son-in-law, and Katrina Kaif is dazzling as the desirable Sanjana.
Malikka Sherawat is also doing fine as Rajiv’s fiancée who throws a spanner in the works, but her character seems to have been dragged a bit and from her introduction into the story it all becomes a bit too full and too long-winded, story-wise seen. . The first two or so hours of “Welcome” have just the right balance of screwball moments, romance, action, and plot twists. The characters are also reasonably rounded, although seeds are planted at the beginning of the film for possible later developments. The last hour seems a bit like the “obligation” of the normal epic playing time had to be fulfilled while the story was already finished. Suddenly the focus of the film is largely shifted to the gangsters instead of the romantic couple and it seems that a different story is being dealt with than what had been built and worked out all that time.
It is an unfortunate blot on an otherwise very enjoyable film. Although it will be a bit of a matter of “sitting out” the film, the last act – or second half – does not have much negative influence on the final experience of the film. “Welcome” is too irresistible for this part of the movie to be a big deal. The film is one big show and the viewer is invited to join the party.