Making a period film that is set in the pre-independence era is no easy task. Recreating the mannerisms, setting, costume and prevalent atmosphere of that time is a feat which if done well, turns out to be a visual spectacle. With FIRANGI, debutant director Rajiev Dhingra attempts just that. But will the film that stars Television’s funny man Kapil Sharma entice the audience or will it like so many other period dramas be lost in the history, is what we analyse.
FIRANGI starts off with a voice over by the legendary Amitabh Bachchan, who details the settings and atmosphere of the pre-independence era and India's fight for freedom. At the same time, the narrative describes the setting of the quaint little town where the film’s lead protagonist Manga (Kapil Sharma) lives. From there on, the film follows Manga’s struggle to land a job within the police for the British forces where he fails repeatedly. However, Manga has one special gift; he is able to rectify any spinal ailment with just a kick. This special ability lands Manga the much elusive job with a local British officer Mark Daniel (Edward Sonnenblick). However, unfortunately due to his new job, his marriage proposal to a neighbouring village girl Sargi (Ishita Dutta) gets rejected since he is now classified as a British slave. Making matters worse, the local king, Raja Inderveer Singh (Kumud Mishra) is intent on usurping the village land where Sargi lives, to set up a liquor factory in partnership with Mark Daniel. As part of this plan to usurp the village land, both Raja Inderveer and Mark Daniel come up with a plan to gain the land with rightful consent of the villagers, by tricking them. Manga, whose love also lives in the same village, tries his best to appeal to his master to save the land. However matters go from bad to worse with Manga getting stuck smack in the middle of the unintentional mess. Will Manga save the village land? Will he marry the love of his life Sargi? Or will the British officer Daniel and Raja Inderveer be successful is what forms the rest of the film.
Starting off the film is slow, and meanders along without any semblance of a story or plot line. For almost the first hour of the movie, the camera simply follows Kapil Sharma’s character Manga as he goes about his ordinary life. It is only towards the interval where things begin to pick up with a story being formed as the relation between the various characters shown on the screen in the first hour come in contact with each other and a sinister plot evolves. However, though the film begins to pick pace post the interval, the onscreen proceedings slow down again drastically. With long drawn out sequences and a placid screenplay, FIRANGI becomes a drag. However, it does manage to perk up again towards the last half hour. Coupled with this, the lack of catchy music, weak writing, screenplay that goes all over, and most importantly the lack of comic element greatly diminishes the film’s appeal.
Talking about direction, debutante director Rajiev Dhingra seems to be heavily inspired by Aamir Khan's LAGAAN. From the film’s main plot points, its presentation, the storyline, and narration using Amitabh Bachchan’s voice before the start and at the climax, FIRANGI in many places seems eerily similar to the Aamir Khan starrer. Though Rajiev Dhingra does decent for a debutante director, one wishes that he had worked on the script harder and reduced the length of the film, especially in the first half.
Coming to the performances, Kapil Sharma does not do what he is known for. He doesn't play a comic character; instead he is very serious and intense in the film. Audiences who will venture into the theatres expecting TV’s funny man to be at his best will be sorely disappointed to see him offer almost no humor in his film. On the other hand, Kapil’s romantic scenes with Ishita Dutta are highly intense at times. In fact, in certain areas his performance comes across as more intense than even Shah Rukh Khan’s romantic moments, but this may not necessarily work in his favour and may backfire on him. The lead actress of FIRANGI, Ishita Dutta, on the other hand, doesn’t get much scope in the film. She has a small part in the first half and is completely missing from the second half of the film, only to emerge during the climax scene. With little to no dialogues and meagre screen time, Dutta’s role is virtually non-existent. However, Monica Gill gets a slightly meatier role in the film and does a decent job. But her British accent with a sudden desi twang seems rather odd.
Ironically, the comic element in the film does not come as much from Kapil Sharma as it does from the rest of the cast that includes Rajesh Sharma, Inaamulhaq and Vishal O Sharma, who do a stellar job as supporting characters. In fact, one can easily say that the supporting cast shoulders the responsibility of carrying the film along with Kapil, while bringing in much needed comic relief to this otherwise dull story. The actors playing British officer Mark Daniels and Raja Inderveer Singh, i.e. Edward Sonnenblick and Kumud Mishra, have pivotal roles and play their parts very well.
As for the editing, the film should have been much shorter, especially in the first half which goes nowhere for almost an hour. In fact, the lengthy run time of the film could have been cut down drastically had the editing been crisp. Editor Omkarnath Bhakri could have done a much better job in this department. Navneet Misser does a good job with the cinematography, getting the setting and locations right. Unfortunately these alone cannot help save the film.
On the whole, due to its weak script and lack of comedy FIRANGI fails to leave a lasting impression. Besides this, the long run time of 161 mins will leave the audiences impatient and restless. At the box office, the film will face an uphill task of enticing the audiences, given the lack of buzz surrounding the film.