4.5 Excellent

Lage Raho Munnabhai

It's all a ‘chemical locha’ (aberration). Munnabhai meets Mahatma Gandhi and they get along like a house on fire. The prophetic leader from the past has a blast as he tells Munna how to deal with an avaricious builder (Boman Irani) and other ouch-casts of society.

It looks like Circuit has competition this time. Even as he remains a fiercely loyal Hanuman to his mentor Munna, Munna this time shifts his loyalties and attention to the lovely RJ Jahanvi and to Mahatma Gandhi who keeps appearing in Munna's day-time reverie to advise the benign gangster on love life and other vagaries of being human.

Munna and Circuit, arguably cinema's most adorable and roguish reformists since Laurel and Hardy go about the business of generating humour out of the pathos of the human condition. The sequences, all fiercely and famously path-breaking have us in splits.

Watch the love-lorn Munnabhai answer a Gandhian quiz on a phone-in radio quiz with the help of kidnapped professors…It's one of the most comically animated sequences seen in the movies of the new millennium. To look at LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI as a 'serious comedy' is to seriously undermine the motivations and impact of the series (and let’s face it, there's no getting away from the Munna-Circuit jodi for the producer and director).

Playing the sweat-smart ruffians with hearts of cool, Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi bring a chirpy enchantment to their roles. Their parts have hefty hearts. But there's more. There's an innocence and a desire to make the world a better place.

Though some of the music and jokes are derived from the first film, this time Hirani takes the duo further down the road of moralistic mirth to create what can easily be deemed the most significant satire in Indian cinema since MUNNABHAI MBBS.

This time Munna meets Mahatma Gandhi. It's an interesting combination. While outwardly the two seem as disparate in time and personality as Sunil Dutt and Sanjay Dutt both are in essence all heart and no guile.

The Munna-Mahatma dialogues sparkle with satirical wisdom, thanks in no small part to Dutt and Dilip Prabhavalkar (who plays Gandhiji with tongue-in-cheek conviction). The dialogues by Hirani and Abhijeet Joshi constantly probe the festering moral and social system of the nation without getting hysterical on homilies. The individual scenes make light of national issues without ever trivializing the cult of the conscience.

At heart—and boy, does this film have it in plenty! LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI is a parable on love and companionship. Whether it's Munnabhai's bonding with his faithful companion Circuit (watch the two actors turn that potentially mawkish sequence at the dockyard into something special) or Munna courting love (Balan) and Gandhism, the narrative dodges false notes by remaining sincere to the characters.

Every actor gets a chance to special in this enriching take of non-violent protest and radio-activity. But Dutt and Warsi go beyond. Sanjay Dutt proves again that he has shaped up into a fine performer who can mingle poignancy with satire the way Raj Kapoor did in those parables to innocence like SHRI 420 and AWARA, or like Sunil Dutt did in MILAN and MEHERBAAN.

Warsi manages to steal some scenes from Dutt. That's how effective he is! Surely he’s one of the finest young actors today. Vidya Balan is gloriously glamorous and likeable, though she could’ve toned down those expressions of coy contemporeity that make her look like a model for cornflakes.

In fact some of the emotional moments like those between Jimmy Shergil and his screen-father Pariskshat Sahni or that flamboyant wedding finale where the bride Dia Mirza tells the truth about her horoscope at the cost of turning her groom away, do not have the emotional impact which one thought they would.

Though a wee short of tears, LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI goes a long way in creating an enduring and endearing parable on the importance of being earnest in a world of growing duplicity. The narrative is so unfailingly heartwarming and the characters so full of human kindness, you wait for the plot to be weighed down by excessive self-importance. The fall never happens. LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI remains true to its characters till the end.

One of Munna's favourite words is 'daring'.

It must also be Rajkumar Hirani's favourite word. In a world of extravagant cynicism and rancour he dares to dream of Gandhian peace. When the aggressive Munna turns his other cheek, you wonder if Gandhian values have a place in our heart.

They most certainly do have a place in Hirani's art. Shall we take it up from there?
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