The election fever is heating up and not a day passes when one doesn't hear of charges of corruption, bribery, scams, kickbacks and frauds committed by certain politicians. Fodder for drama? Post BODYGUARD, one expects Alvira and Atul Agnihotri to deliver yet another masala entertainer -- a remake, perhaps -- with celebrated stars. But the Agnihotris take a U-turn with O TERI. They opt for an issue-based film, cast relative newcomers, but package it with commercial ingredients to connect with the aam junta. Does the film strike a chord?
First, the premise! O TERI narrates the story of intern journos Prantabh aka P.P. [Pulkit Samrat] and Anand aka A.I.D.S. [Bilal Amrohi] associated with a news channel in Delhi, in search of a big scam to prove a point to their senior [Sarah Jane Dias]. The story takes a turn when a dead body accidentally lands up in their car. Later, a bridge collapses and finally, a CD which exposes a major scam involving a politician [Anupam Kher] falls in their hands. What happens next?
Does the plot ring a bell? Oh yes, it does! Recall Kundan Shah's ageless classic JAANE BHI DO YAARO. O TERI brings back memories of that film. Even the characters portrayed by Pulkit and Bilal bear similarity to Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani's characters in JAANE BHI DO YAARO [Shah and Baswani portrayed struggling photographers in that film]. Coincidental?
The similarities notwithstanding, first-time director Umesh Bist borrows from real-life episodes, emphasizes on the politician-builder nexus, throws light on corruption amongst the top ranks of leadership, but ensures he sugar-coats the bitter truth with funny lines, amusing episodes, glitzy songs... in short, O TERI is a satire with a Bollywoodish slant.
The plot of O TERI had the potential to explore the murky games that politicians play. Handled adroitly, the outcome could've been revealing and rewarding. But O TERI spends too much time and footage on inconsequential things, which deviates your attention from the core issue. While the first hour is engrossing in parts -- a few episodes are amusing -- the graph of the movie spirals downwards in the post-interval portions. Reasons: the humor is banal, the laughs are missing, the writing lacks meat, the sequence of events leading to the culmination just don't work.
In addition, the undercurrent of sarcasm -- so essential in a film that mocks at the system and also at the bureaucrats -- is clearly missing. Furthermore, Umesh succumbs to the pressures of making a masala entertainer, which results in the storyteller packing songs and item tracks, which look forced in the scheme of things. In addition, the run time, although controlled [less than 2 hours], seem never-ending, more so towards the second half.
The soundtrack is foot-tapping, but an overdose of songs [in the first half] mars the impact.
Pulkit Samrat is pitch-perfect in his part. He seems to be getting better with every film. Bilal Amrohi radiates confidence, but the rawness is too evident at times. Anupam Kher runs through his part with effortless ease. Sarah Jane Dias does quite well. Mandira Bedi is effectual, while Vijay Raaz's talent isn't tapped to the fullest. Manoj Pahwa looks like an add-on and his re-emergence in the climax seems weird. Salman Khan sparkles in the title track towards the end credits.
On the whole, O TERI had the potential to be a smart take on political scams and corrupt bureaucrats, but, unfortunately, the film crumbles thanks to a shoddy screenplay.