Cast: Akshay Kumar, Emraan Hashmi, Nushrratt Bharuccha, Diana Penty
Director: Raj Mehta
Rating: Two stars (out of 5)
Script isn’t King inSelfiee. It is an unabashed Akshay Kumar show. The star leaves absolutely nothing to chance. He stamps himself on everything that the vapid film has on offer. The narrative (derived from the late Sachy’s screenplay) is tweaked and stretched to make space for an actor in search of a hit. But nothing clicks.
Selfiee is the Hindi remake of the 2019 Malayalam film Driving Licence. The vehicle never fully revs up because the star, to the detriment of the movie, concedes no ground at all to things that might have mattered. The chintzy concoction runs into an obstacle course and finds a way out of it.
A movie megastar desperately seeking a driving licence runs afoul of an inveterate fan, a Regional Transport Office (RTO) inspector in Bhopal. As the fan-turned-foe queers the pitch, the celebrity’s grand plans, both personal and professional, are in danger of going into a tailspin. But can the power of a common man be a match for the clout of a movie star?
There is much in Selfiee that goes awry because large swathes of the film are painfully pointless. If the film is meant to be an exploration of fame and adulation and their manifestations or an examination of what happens when a slighted movie fan decides to strike back, it only manages to deliver a blurred picture. As shallow as it is silly, Selfiee does not get its focus right.
Akshay Kumar’s home banner, Cape of Good Films, is one of the producers of the film along with Dharma Productions, Prithviraj Productions (the original lead actor’s outfit) and Magic Frames (a key backer of the Malayalam film). The film understandably does all it can to not let the spotlight stray away from the protagonist. The effort yields a massive wreck that is beyond salvation.
To be fair, Selfiee, directed by Raj Mehta (Good Newwz, Jugjugg Jeeyo), is certainly not as excruciatingly bad as some of Akshay Kumar’s recent releases. But, then, can it ever be easy to be as a godawful as Bachchhan Paandey, Raksha Bandhan and Ram Setu? Selfiee may try your patience, but it does not overly offend one’s sensibilities the way his other films tend to.
In Driving Licence, the character of the film producer (who frets over going overbudget and running late) and the superstar’s rival (envious of his string of hits) were believable figures. In Selfiee, the former is at best a frisky hanger-on. The latter is worse – a pathetic buffoon whose only job in the film is to make the protagonist look much better than he actually is.
Vijay Kumar (Akshay Kumar), reigning Bollywood superstar who has a passion for fast cars, lands in Bhopal for the shoot of a film. For its climax, he has to furnish a driving licence in order for the film unit to secure the necessary permissions from the authorities. He does not have one.
RTO inspector Om Prakash Agarwal (Emraan Hashmi) and his son are diehard fans of the star. They religiously watch every film of his and dance noisily to his songs much to the chagrin of the inspector’s wife (Nushrratt Bharuccha), who adores Vijay Kumar’s rival Suraj Diwan (Abhimanyu Singh). When their idol arrives in town, father and son are thrilled to bits.
To fast track the issuance of his driver’s licence, Vijay agrees to take time off from his schedule and visit the RTO to pose for a selfie with Om and his wide-eyed son. But matters go horribly wrong and the star gives the unsuspecting inspector a mouthful.
Angered and humiliated, the obdurate policeman decides to settle scores by giving the actor a tough time. The face-off between the two men constitutes the crux of the corny film that, in the garb of examining fandom and celeb entitlement, is mindful never to deviate from the purpose of giving the superstar – a gentleman, a good professional, a model citizen, a caring husband and a do-gooder – the upper hand.
Vijay Kumar is an epitome of perfection. Nothing that is thrown the unflappable man’s way can stop him from doing the right thing. The film always seems more about Akshay Kumar than about the character that he plays is on the screen. Vijay Kumar is described as a producer’s actor. Akshay Kumar is producer-actor. Therein lies the rub.
Meta elements make their way into the narrative but to no lasting effect. Like everything else in Selfiee, they add up to little beyond varnishing the star’s persona. The hero’s gummy smile is made the butt of a good-natured joke by his wife (Diana Penty).
A little later in the film, Vijay Kumar (speaking for the fictional figure as well as for Akshay Kumar) cockily reminds the stubborn inspector that he has no time to waste because he has an enormous number of commitments – films, web shows, product endorsements and reality shows.
A broadside at the boycott Bollywood brigade – which goes berserk when the clash between the megastar and a honest inspector catches the attention of the electronic media – falls flat because nothing in Selfiee is allowed to come in the way of the progress of Akshay Kumar.
With none of the characters allowed to evolve, Emraan Hashmi is compelled to struggle to create his space in the film. He does occasionally manage to rise above the din – the ear-splitting background score contributes to the decibel level – despite the odds being heavily loaded against him.
As for the two female actors in Selfiee – Nushrratt Bharuccha and Diana Penty, playing the wives of the two warring men – they are mere adjuncts. They are after all in an Akshay Kumar movie, akin to a two-and-a-half-hour selfie dedicated to a self-obsessed star. Unless you are a fan, it would be best to give Selfiee a miss.
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