Rom-coms with middle class setting instantly take you back to the days when Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee specialized in such themes. And Saurabh Shukla's new directorial venture PAPPU CAN'T DANCE SAALA walks the same path. It seems like an extension of what we witnessed in the 70s and 80s. But before you assume that the film is a musical or about a simpleton who *can't* dance, nope, it's not.
Saurabh Shukla has the track record of making films that have interesting concepts and the same can be said of PAPPU CAN'T DANCE SAALA. This time, the talented actor/director narrates the story of a small town guy adjusting to the lifestyle in a metropolis. Also, Shukla integrates the odd couple track in the plot to make it more authentic. Before you exclaim, haven't we seen it all in the past, haven't we watched the usual nit-picking between a bindaas girl and a shy small town boy, the transition from being mere acquaintances to caring for each other couple, the diametrically opposite couple pining to be soul mates, let me say, yes, it packs all of the above, but Shukla also packs the narrative with subtle humor and slice of life episodes to tell a story.
So does it work? In parts, yes. But, in the end, PAPPU CAN'T DANCE SAALA remains an ordinary watch!
PAPPU CAN'T DANCE SAALA is about two people from different worlds. Vidyadhar [Vinay Pathak] has just shifted from Banaras to Mumbai. A man with old world values who finds it difficult to adjust in the city... Mehak [Neha Dhupia] is a dancer in Bollywood. She has learned the tricks of surviving in this fast-paced city. She is loud and jazzy... They're neighbors who, due to certain circumstances, somehow get stuck in the same flat... and thus begins their story!
PAPPU CAN'T DANCE SAALA is unlike a Saurabh Shukla film. This time, to quote him, he's gone 'commercial', aiming for the mass audience. PAPPU CAN'T DANCE SAALA shows promise at the start; the character of Vinay Pathak specifically seems straight out of life. Though Vinay has been cast in a similar mould in the past, the actor brings that variation in his character that makes the goings-on watchable. Also, the sequences when Vinay and Neha clash -- first, when Neha organizes a party at her flat and next, when they meet the members of the Society to voice their grievances -- are truly enjoyable.
But PAPPU CAN'T DANCE SAALA slips in its post-interval portions. The promise that it showed initially dries up in this hour. The goings-on, to put it bluntly, aren't bland, but get into the been-there-seen-that pattern. And one isn't too excited to know how the lovers would unite in the end for this reason. More so because the romance is so subtle that you actually wonder if it's true love or just strong feelings for each other, which could also be construed as unadorned camaraderie or unembellished affection. To cut a long story short, the screenplay could've been more engrossing in this hour.
Like I pointed out earlier, Saurabh Shukla has filmed a couple of sequences proficiently, but he's saddled with a middling script. The music [Malhar] is functional, but the one filmed on Neha [the video track] is bouncy. Fuwad Khan's cinematography is fair.
Vinay Pathak breathes his character, conferring it the dignity it warrants. Neha Dhupia catches you with complete surprise. She's the scene stealer actually, who handles the dramatic moments as well as the livewire ones with flourish. Rajat Kapoor has not been used befitting his caliber. Brijendra Kala does well in a succinct part. Sanjay Mishra is serviceable. Naseeruddin Shah sparkles in a cameo.
On the whole, PAPPU CAN'T DANCE SAALA is, at best, a regular fare. It could've been far more appealing and engaging had it not fallen prey to mediocrity in its second hour.