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The story goes something like this: in 1997 producer Sajid Nadiadwala and director David Dhawan (known for their utter disregard of common sense in stories) thought to rework the twin-brother formula by adapting the hit Telugu film Hello Brother with Salman Khan in the lead. Their movie Judwaa, and its amateurishly penned songs, were a mammoth hit.

Even then I couldn’t understand what made the movie so successful. Was it the skimpy designer outfits the heroines wore while gracelessly gyrating or hopping like bunny rabbits to Anu Malik’s tunes? Was it the gag-after-gag approach to storytelling that threw in a villain for good measure? Or was it simply Salman Khan, although it must be remembered that his career wasn’t as consistently high-flying then as it is today? Whatever the reason, Judwaa was a big hit and there was talk of a sequel.

Now, two decades later, David Dhawan’s son Varun replaces Salman in Judwaa 2. The suffixed number, however, is a redundant add-on. Judwaa 2 is not the original’s spiritual successor. It is a direct remake: a scene-for-scene, gag-for-gag adaptation. Today’s version even brings back the dragging second act (the movie’s middle section) in a bid to stay truthful to the original. I wish they hadn’t.

With exception to a new cast (Jaqueline Fernandes, Taapsee Pannu and Rajpal Yadav stepping in for Karishma Kapoor, Rambha and Shakti Kapoor), better cinematography by Ayananka Bose, seamless visual effects and ample scenes of lip-locking, Judwaa 2 is exactly like its predecessor.

Judwaa 2 is not the original version’s spiritual successor: it is a direct remake, a scene-for-scene, gag-for-gag adaptation

Two brothers, Prem and Raja, are separated at birth by a baddie with a catch-phrase (“I’ll get straight to the point!”). One grows up in London as a weakling nerd with glasses; the other is the good-natured slum dog who beats down hoodlums and can’t let a woman pass by without slapping her posterior. Being the ripped, good-looking hero, no one slaps a sexual harassment case on him.

The brothers soon find their leading ladies — twinkly-eyed bimbos both of them — unleash a few songs (music by Anu Malik, Sajid-Wajid and Meet Bros), and learn that their bodies automatically begin mimicking each other at close proximity. This ability kicks in randomly whenever convenient for a particular gag.

The screenplay by Yunus Sejawal and dialogue by Sajid-Farhad repurpose jokes with unconditional sacredness. Despite Varun Dhawan’s unflinching sincerity to both roles (even with his nasally monotone voice, he is better than Salman as both Prem and Raja) the retorts fall flat on their faces at times. Some good ones, we’ve already seen in the trailers.

David Dhawan, once the master of haphazardly written comedy-actioners (Aankhein and Hero No.1 being career milestones) handles his chores well enough until the intermission break. From then onwards, the material dries up and one wishes for the end credits to scroll up.

Despite the boring second act — or the heroines’ and their parents’ lack of respect and sharam — Judwaa 2 has a strange easy-going vibe that makes one hum along with Chalti Hai Kya 9 Se 12 and Oonchi Hai Building (the latter still sung by Anu Malik) and sit till the movie’s wearying wrap-up.

Published in Dawn, ICON, October 8th, 2017

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