Straight up – Joker arouses extreme passions. You’ll love it or hate it. It’s a totally off-the-wall entertainer powered by corny jokes, OTT filmi characters and tongue-in-cheek sequences. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll laugh out loud. If you don’t, it’s not for you.
Joker starts with scientist Agastya (Kumar) who’s developing ‘the world’s most sophisticated radio’ to contact aliens, urgently summoned from America to his desi village. With girlfriend Diva (Sinha), Agastya returns to his roots in – get this – Paglapur, a swampy village that belongs to no Indian state since the British officer mapping it vamoosed when the nation’s largest madhouse broke into the place. The result – Paglapur was settled by the deranged and their descendants, self-sufficient till a dam pops up, choking off its water, the reason Agastya’s called back by his desperate desis including bro Babban (Talpade) who only speaks gobbledygook, his cross-eyed father and the red-coated progeny of an English lunatic called ‘Lord Falkland’.
Agasyta approaches several ministers for help but receiving only snide jokes, ‘Sattu’ turns the joke on the world and decides Paglapur is where aliens will land. As ‘UFOs’ – or, as Agastya shouts, “Haan haan, FO!” – descend, the world’s press, politicians and goodies, from electricity to phones, reach Paglapur. As does Agastya’s nemesis, nasty American scientist, the brilliantly-named Simon Goeback (O’Nell), who sets out to ruin the village’s show.
Joker is literally a mad comedy, its real star its jokes, one villager stating calmly, “Dil toh karta hai ki qawalli gaun“, another explaining an alien in a field as, “Babuji lota lekar gaye honge,” glittering little gems in a crazy painting. Some performances – Talpade especially, O’Nell too – are stand-out while Kumar is adequate. Sinha makes a pretty picture but has a pinched role, Paglapur peculiarly not having any other women around. Joker’s plot is inventive, inspired by a colourful mix, ET to Lagaan, Harry Potter, Peepli Live, even reminiscent of an Asterix comic where at the end, they find oil. It’s satirical – the old madhouse gets turned into the ‘Paglapur Laaj’, its electric-shock room becoming the ‘Presidential Suite’ – and oddball, gaon-walas wearing their dhotis with Trilby hats.
But cheekiness aside, it’s got flaws. Apart from ‘Kaafirana‘ and ‘Sing Raja‘, it has unmemorable music and its lighting provides a dim, aquarium-like viewing experience. Agastya’s boss is a mysteriously flickering 3D-like image, Diva’s scarlet nail polish appears and vanishes as rapidly as the village ET, the film’s FX looks more tacky than techie. Quibbles aside, it’s a funny flick which doesn’t promise the earth – but delivers a home- made alien.
Agastya invents aliens to help his mad village onto a welfare map. Will the world get his joke?
Tip off :-
Joker’s a ‘vegetarian’ family dish that overloads the cheesy corn without adding common sense. Watch if you can digest well.