F.A.L.T.U. (which translates to “useless,” if I’m not mistaken) was not what I expected. Despite the candy colored posters and spunky promotions, Jackky Bhagnani’s re-launch film was not a throwback to the soft-focus college campus capers of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai nor was it a romance. The film picks up on the major plot thread of Patiala House - kids learning how to motivate themselves and parents realizing that their children have their own dreams – but as seen through the lens of choreographer-director (that’s how he’s billed in the credits) Remo D’Souza.
Here is the basic story: a group of four youngistanis decide to start their own fake college to keep their parents from hassling them about their futures. Obviously, this plan backfires when real students show up to their fake college. If it sounds like the plot to Accepted, you are not wrong, however, F.A.L.T.U. really shares very little with the American film other than some plotting but I thought I would acknowledge the similarity right off.
Our four friends are:
* Jackky Bhagnani as Ritesh, the main guy
* Chandan Roy Sanyal as Vishnu, the one who can act
* Angad Bedi as Nanj, the fit one
* Puja Gupta as Pooja, the girl
The youngistanis get plenty of help from Google Chand (Arshad Warsi), a fixer of sorts who lives in a van down by the river, and from laidback teacher turned principal Baaji Rao (Riteish Deshmukh.)
I was wary of a film produced by the father of the main actor but the film really works as an ensemble piece. Vishnu is the character that anchors the main emotional arc and Jackky is not given a romance, something that was completely unexpected but very welcome. And Arshad and Riteish fans will not be disappointed, as the two get quite a bit of screentime.
The main theme of F.A.L.T.U. is that everybody can be useful to society if they follow their own dreams – whether that be DJing or carpentry or cookery – and the actors are a pleasingly diverse group. There were at least 8 or 9 students that we get to know who only have a handful of lines each but among them were some of the staples of Bollywood comedy, treated as normal people - Sikhs, a gay guy, and a full-figured girl.
(O HAI ARSHAD!)
F.A.L.T.U. exists in the same comforting universe as Chance Pe Dance where events happen because the plot dictates that it be so if the narrative is going to make sense. And that’s not a bad thing. Do we need a pedantic explanation of how they open a college? Nope! I think at one point Google-ji literally handwaves away some legal matter as unimportant to worry about. And it is.
Remo D’Souza does some interesting things with the structure of the film, weaving in both regular MTV-style song picturizations and some songs used as part of the plot – a song to clean the building, a song that’s a campus party - F.A.L.T.U. is full of great music.
I can’t help but contrast this film to Game, since they both came out the same weekend. The one that was supposed to be the ensemble piece turned out to be a star vehicle and the star vehicle turned out to be an ensemble piece. Where Game had women who were falling all over the Hero, Pooja’s motivation is her DJ career. Game had a nonsensical plot and no message; F.A.L.T.U. had a comforting plot and a great message. And (*spoiler*) guess which film ended with everybody winning because they did an interpretive dance about how society shouldn’t throw people away? Hint: It wasn’t Game.
Cynicism and slickness have their place but so do sincerity and good humor. F.A.L.T.U. is far from perfect but it had some very genuine moments and it put a smile on my face.
Here are a few other thoughts that deserve mention:
1. I’m not sure how well the film works as a launch for Jackky Bhagnani. He didn’t really leave much of an impression on me other than ‘looks kind of like Shiney Ahuja.’ I didn’t dislike him or anything but his character was kind of bland.
2. Puja Gupta rocked my socks. The girl is adorable and completely charming. I also appreciated the fact that she was nobody’s love interest and remained fully clothed the entire time.
3. Why isn’t Chandan Roy Sanyal in everything? There is a scene where Riteish Deshmukh is showing him how to be a “Hero” that had me dying with laughter.
4. Arshad Warsi and Ritesh Deshmukh remain two of my favorite actors for the simple reason that they can transform the flimsiest material into something worth watching. It was really funny (in a good way) to see the two old pros dancing alongside the newbies.
5. Most importantly, F.A.L.T.U. is legally available for streaming right now from http://www.zeetv.com/faltu/ at a very reasonable price. I took advantage of this service as it is not in theaters here in the US. Everything worked very smoothly except there are NO SUBTITLES and the sound quality could be better.
I would humbly like to suggest that they add English subtitles next time because without them, a large portion of the non-Indian audience won’t be able to appreciate the film.