Here's the thing - all of us who have grown up with the pop culture invasion that satellite television brought along, know and remember Sajid Khan. A brilliant funnyman, with hilarious and scathing satire for all the melodrama and nonsense we have seen in typical Bollywood films as long as we can remember. That is exactly why his full feature debut has expectations of a different kind attached - we want the film to be better than all the films he always made fun of.
Unfortunately for everyone, he has earnestly and honestly set out to make the most clichéd, melodramatic and unoriginal film in years. Congratulations Sajid, you succeeded.
Heyy Babyy, as the bad spelling in the name suggests, is a movie so scared of breaking the Bollywood mould, that it regresses even further backward than any of the recent turkeys. Unlike sister Farah's or bro-in-law Shirish Kunder's debuts, his is not a celebration of all things cinematic. This is an exercise in mediocrity and a test to see how far his friends would go to save him.
The story is just something Sajid came up with while watching '80s movie DVDs (cough, 3 Men And a Baby, cough) in Sydney, and it shows. Aroush (Akshay), Tanmay (Ritesh) and Ali (Fardeen) are friends and roommates who philander, dance, seduce and have a good time with pretty women for one song. They get delivered a baby one morning, and their lives go to hell. They lose their jobs, sleep, and, slowly, the will to go after any more women.
So they do what any normal person would do - leave the baby in pouring rain, until it almost dies of hypothermia. Yes, it's a comedy, bear with me. They pray to God, proclaim that the child is now their daughter, and sing songs with huge balloons. Awesome, but mummy dearest Esha (Vidya) comes right before the intermission to get the baby back.
Much crying ensues, and then a shaadi song flashback where Aroush remembers how he seduced Esha and then dumped her. All of this and Aroush's remorse sequence done, he sets out to get the woman back, and the three men decide that the baby's gotta come, too.
It's not as stupid and hackneyed as I make it out to be. Sajid Khan and screenplay writer Milap Zaveri concoct a whole host of clichés and inane plot devices, just to keep things flitting between comedy and melodrama: a contract where Esha has to get married within a week or the child will go back to Akshay, a song where Akshay can't be recognized by Esha (the mother of his child, by the way) because he has a stubble, a grandfather who leaves his granddaughter to protect his daughter, and Australian police who are only too happy to harass private citizens based on phone calls.
The only thing keeping the movie going is the number of friends Sajid has rooting for him, including Akshay. So we have umpteen pretty women cameos, Anupam Kher, and another surprise that should have been treated as such, but is now all over the television channels - Shahrukh Khan. There is something terribly wrong with a production that reveals its secrets just to get those extra seats on opening day. Fortunately for us - and Sajid, too, I guess - the friends deliver.
Akshay shows that there is no one better than him at the kind of comedy he does. He is restrained yet laugh-out-loud funny. His credible performance and presence are superstar material, and he elevates the lighter moments of the film to a level above the writing.
Fardeen, surprisingly, and Ritesh, as expected, deliver note-perfect comic timing, and are very good at bouncing jokes off each other. Boman, as Esha's father, is an extension of the half-loony character he played in Main Hoon Na, which is not a bad thing. Vidya, precious little that she has to do, sparkles in the angry bits with bite.
To Sajid's credit, there are some moments in the latter half of the film that do not rely on potty humor, and are actually extremely witty and remind us of the totally off-balance humor he was once capable of. Those moments have a true comedic genius touch to them, and while you guffaw during those, they are also interspersed with heavy, hammy, and stagey moments with tedious dialog.
Technically, Sajid can't frame a single shot that does not appear ridiculously overdone or too bland, and his choice of background score is as bad as his choice of serious dialog. The whole enterprise is stubbornly, resolutely disingenuous and uni-dimensional, and it is only the off-kilter humor and the expertise with which the cast handle themselves, that save the film from being a complete stinker.
Though good for a few laughs and some very nicely done in jokes, the film has zero emotional quotient, no matter how much tears are shed in the second half. Watch it entirely at the risk of your eyes getting strained; what with all the rolling up they are going to be doing in disbelief. Watching this nearly okay film won't be a mistake, but making it definitely was.