Cast: Akshay Kumar, Trisha
This film has a common man as its protagonist and talks about the corruption he resorts to, to adapt to a bureaucracy, which he believes he can’t change single-handedly. Pretty much like talented filmmaker Priyadarshan who gave us rare gems like Kaala Paani and Kanchivaram but has more often served us coal-tar cinema by acclimatizing himself to the tastelessness of Bollywood bureaucracy. And then he calls it Khatta Meetha .
So Priyadarshan continues his ritual of remakes by revisiting his own 1989 film, Vellanakalude Nadu (starring Mohanlal and Shobana). The utmost upgrading he does to the two-decade old plot is by altering the Malayalam milieu to Marathi to which you can only say nanachi taang (to hell with).
The film opens with some civil contractors embroiled in a scam when the bridge they had constructed, collapses. But the bridge breakdown has little link to the plot which gives more room to accommodate Akshay Kumar and his antiques which invariably means loud performances, slapstick humour and chunks of commotion and chaos. Sachin Tichkule (Akshay Kumar) is a road contractor under heavy debt. He also has an extended joint family though the horde of half-baked characters has no significant role in the story.
A new municipal commissioner (Trisha) arrives in the area who happens to be Sachin’s ex-girlfriend. A flashback account of their boring college bonding and equally bland break-off is as much roadblock to the narrative as much as Sachin finds in his civil career-graph. A road-roller episode directly derived from the cult television series Malgudi Days (and more recently also seen in another TV series Lapataganj ) doesn’t smoothen the sketchy storytelling.
Suddenly when the director realizes that too much time has been exhausted in conveying too little, the screenplay is conveniently rushed. So the hero gives an incoherent speech on lack of love and compatibility amongst countrymen. You wonder why? Soon after, he confesses his love to the heroine to make way for a traditionally dressed song and dance routine. When things still don’t work, the filmmaker opts for the oldest cinematic clichés. The hero’s sister gets raped. The witness gets killed before reaching court. Hero and villain indulge in dishoom dishoom . Film ends but mediocrity prevails.
Khatta Meetha lacks wit and sarcasm and by no means can be termed as a political satire. Rather it’s a blatant and full-blown melodramatic tale of corruption that one has witnessed in zillion films before. The writing branches into too many subplots from politics, family, romance but seems disjoint rather than appearing multifaceted. The family characterizations of a powerless patriarch (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), scheming siblings and the ridiculed younger son protagonist (Akshay Kumar) are quite reminiscent of Anil Kapoor’s Saaheb (1985).
The Marathi nuances in dialogues seem forced. Arun Kumar’s loose editing often makes you lose the narrative. Sabu Cyril repeats his preset Priyadarshan-pattern art direction . Even the usually dependable V Manikandan’s camerawork is irritatingly inconsistent in the climax fight perhaps because he focuses more on capturing the banian brand for in-film placement . Also Pritam’s music fails to impress this time around.
Akshay Kumar continues his buffoonery which is not much to speak about. Trisha has nothing notable to deliver in her Bollywood debut. None of the countless character artists are worth a mention.
In the last scene of the film, Akshay Kumar casually comments, “ mujhe kuch waqt ke liye shanti chahiye ” (I need peace for sometime). He pretty much resonates the sentiments of audiences who have been seeing him repeat the same loud and caricatured characters in the name of comedy. Khatta Meetha ends up leaving a bad taste in your mouth.