There is very little that is wonderful about Gurinder Chaddha's latest film. It's a spoof alright, but one where the cast and crew seem to have more fun - the production shots, as the credits roll have more rollicking moments than the entire movie put together - than the audience.
The story is about 'How to get my fat daughter married against all odds and ends.' Shaadi
is Gurinder's favourite subject; we've seen it in Bride And Prejudice
, it was there (to good effect) in Bend It Like Beckham
and when it reincarnates itself here again this time with pointless ghosts in tow, it becomes a case of familiarity breeding contempt.
The film lacks the chutzpah of Bend It, and has none of the refreshing irreverence of Bhaji On The Beach; and even though it tries to run with the 'boy meets girl' theme, awkward kisses, zero chemistry, unoriginal lines, and tired acting make it more of a miss than a hit.
A middle-aged widowed mother, played by Shabana Azmi, wants to see her daughter Roopi (Goldy Notay) married and well-settled. The problem is Roopi's girth, her unwaxed moustache and her preoccupation with eating sweets. Unkind rejections, including a royal dump at the altar, make Roopi resigned, unhappy and defensive and her mother tearfully murderous.
So does Roopi meet her match? That's the film.
The mother plots all kinds of masala ends for people that stand in her way to find Roopi's life mate. There are 6 murders, 6 ghosts, the multi-racial London Metropolitan Police, and kilos of curry thrown in; with force-fed doses of Indian spirituality oozing from garish bindis sported by Dipali - Roopi's English friend Linda, who thinks a trip to India, embracing the Om and having a ringtone with bhajans is the only way to find a man to beat spinsterhood. Leaves you breathless with boredom, all the unconnected, pointless trivia.
It's A Wonderful Afterlife has borrowed left, right and centre from Ghost, The Exorcist, Ghostbusters and Gurinder's earlier movies, especially the loud Punjabi engagement bits, with nothing to hold it together, not even the acting of giants such as Shabana Azmi herself.
Why does Ms Azmi look as if she's trying too hard? Why does Goldy have only a limited set of expressions? Why is there not a single original gag in the film that comes from the stables of Gurinder Chadha?
It's A Wonderful Afterlife might delight the NRI crowd in bits and pieces, but is quite likely to leave Hyderabadi movie goers unimpressed.