In the tiny, mostly uneducated population of the Sajjanpur village, Mahadev (Shreyas Talpade) stands out as one of the few who's had formal schooling. Thus, he spends much of his time composing letters for the town illiterates and for those lacking that knack for communicating in prose. So Madahev's cleverly written words impact many lives, his pen particularly determining the fates of a compounder (re: doctor/pharmacist) besotted with a young widow, a frazzled matronly woman who wants to marry off her spinster daughter literally to a dog, a drag queen wanting to run for mayor, and, most especially, the beautiful Kamla the potter (Amrita Rao), an old classmate with whom Mahadev falls madly in love. So it's not cool that Kamla is already married.
After Shreyas Talpade's stellar performance in Iqbal, I was anticipating a bounty of goodness in this movie. But a couple of things factor into making WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR a lethargic viewing experience. Most notably, the pace drags for much of the film. It may have been a mistake to allot so much screen time to Talpade's supporting cast, given that their ancillary slice-of-life stories aren't so absorbing. I nodded off several times during the watching of this, and had to rewatch it the day after just to see if it was that bad and that slow (and it was). The songs are unspectacular and the humor is coarse and fraught with uber cheese, which is routine for the common denominator Bollywood flick. It's too talky, with much of the dialogue falling flat (that is, if the sub-titles hold true to the actual dialogue). Amrita Rao, terrific in Vivah and Main Hoon Na, here gets handed a one-note role. Shreyas Talpade, so memorable as the deaf and dumb Iqbal, keeps things afloat, but is disserviced by a plodding story.
Probably one of the things I disliked most about the film is that it introduces an unsavory element into Mahadev's personality. So the village scribe falls in love with the forlorn village belle Kamla, whose husband for four years now has been away toiling in the big city. I cringed in those scenes in which Mahadev sabotages Kamla's letters to her husband and then purposely misreads her husband's written responses. How could this possibly end in a happy way?
Expect a twisting near the film's end, resulting in a reversal of several fortunes (one of which was fairly horrific) and a convenient resolution to the spinster's wedding to a dog. The twist is interesting, one I didn't see coming. But it's not enough to stem this film's tidal wave of ennui.