To get to the good stuff, sometimes you have to wade thru a lot of crappola. This applies really well to Bollywood cinema, perhaps the largest film industry in the world. There's a sizable number of excellent Indian films, but for each of these gems, there are many, many stinkers. I just saw the feeble MERE BAAP PEHLE AAP, and I chalk up the near three hours I spent watching that clunker as not time well spent but rather as yet further sacrifice offered up at the altar of my fond regard for Indian cinema. Or, put another way, for each Jaane Tu... ya jaane na (DVD) or Bommarillu which brightens the day, there are probably thirty MERE BAAP PEHLE AAPs to darken your doorstep.
In its sensibilities MERE BAAP PEHLE AAP (translates to "My Father, You First") is predominantly a silly comedy, although it does feature two romances and, later in the film, the usual family melodrama. The caterpillar-eyebrowed Akshaye Khanna plays Gaurav, the imperious manager of a mall store who browbeats his subordinates and especially his meek widowed father, Janaradhan Wishvanbhar Rane (Paresh Rawal). Rane has a friend (Om Puri), this randy old dude who is forever hunting for a young bride and who often lands Rane into sticky situations.
Then from out of the blue comes Sheekha (Genelia D'Souza), a beautiful revenge-minded former college mate of Gaurav's. Sheekha begins pranking Gaurav, then makes up with Gaurav, becomes friends with him and, lo, predictable stuff starts to happen. Ultimately, though, the sense I get is that Sheekha is most important not as Akshaye's love interest but in that she provides the bridge to the main plot point of the film, which is Gaurav's father Rane rekindling a romance with an old, old love. It turns out that Sheekha's lovely music professor is Rane's childhood sweetheart. Whether Sheekha and Gaurav get together becomes almost an incidental story arc. But it's fun watching them scheme and play matchmaker for Gaurav's dad.
Thing is, during the first half of the film, you're not too certain of the story's main push. I wondered, was it Akshaye's inevitable romancing of Genelia? Was it the quirky father-son relationship? Or the lame shenanigans which Paresh and his lecherous crony get up to? It isn't until around intermission that we finally get a strong hint of where the film is going. As per custom, the film's first half devotes itself to moronic antics, involving falsely perceived lewd acts and a bawdy dressing down in prison. I feel that I'm being generous when I say that it's all mildly amusing. But not even Paresh Rawal's flair for comedy can save a slovenly executed storyline.
Alarms were going off in my head the moment I saw the promotional art for MERE BAAP PEHLE AAP, showcasing lead star Akshaye Khanna festooned in either some sort of gaudy bandleader outfit or questionable seafaring regalia. The main reason I wanted to check out this film is Genelia D'Souza, whom I worship just short of stalking. Genelia is sunny and lovely and brims with enthusiasm, but her role doesn't allow her to really do anything special. Still, she, Paresh Rawal, and a cameo-appearing Naseeruddin Shah are the film's few saving graces.
But put aside for a minute the slipshod storytelling, and the inescapable cliches, the mostly weak musical numbers, or that Om Puri garners too many unfortunate close-ups (Om Puri is NOT a sexy runway model). That the film doesn't work for me hinges largely on the unlikeable character Akshaye Khanna plays. Khanna's Gaurav Rane comes off as so abrasively bossy and disrespectful to his father that I rapidly got disenchanted with him. Guy's a bully, and that he has a girl like Sheekha somehow becoming interested in him is another testament to the film's overall lack of credibility. And, to really rub it in, Akshaye Khanna - who's actually a decent actor - once more simply looks out of place in his musical routines. Even rhythm-challenged blokes like Anil Kapoor and Ajay Devgan are shaking their heads.
The dvd's special features offer a 22-minute-long Making Of featurette (mostly in English and focuses an inordinate amount of time on the fim's musical numbers, but at least there are interviews with cast & crew), 2 minutes' worth of deleted scenes, and the promotional video (the pretty catchy "Mere Baap Pehle Aap" title track).
So, okay, MERE BAAP PEHLE AAP features a dysfunctional father-son relationship and perfunctory romances. If you're a fan of Paresh Rawal then I guess this is worth checking out as he turns in another solid performance and, for a change, gets a crack at romance - for those who don't know, Paresh usually plays the supporting comic role. If, like me, you watched this because of Genelia D'Souza, then you'll probably walk away thinking that she'd been in better films. Here, her and Akshaye Khanna's romance serves as the lesser story arc and that they even get together in the first place seems very much an afterthought. I guess, during pre-production, the filmmakers' thought processes went something like this: "Hey, you know what the audience is craving to see? A guy nagging his dad to death for three hours. That's gold, baby!" But it's so not gold.