Friday, April 15, 2011

Teen Thay Bhai

Even at his most blink and miss, Om Puri can be a magnet. Teen Thay Bhai is unusual in that it gives this brilliant thesp a full-fledged lead role, which does something equally unusual: sets your teeth on edge.

Puri plays the eldest of three brothers. He is perpetually bad-tempered, frown-lines to the fore. His favourite mode of communication is to yell, at the top of his voice, at those in the vicinity. His wife is fed up (because he has no money), his daughters are fat (because they keep eating), and his brothers are estranged: the middle one is a dentist (Dobriyal) who likes prising peoples’ teeth out, the youngest is a ham (Talpade) who thinks he can act.

The teen bhais find themselves stuck on a snowy night high up on a hilltop, in search of a soft spot for each other. Their grandfather’s complicated will ensures that they cannot shoot each other at sight, but nothing is to stop them from sniping and snarling meanwhile. trouble with Teen Thay Bhai is that it is so flat and so one-note, that the fun, what there is of it, has to struggle to find its way up, and out. The bits which are meant to be out-and-out slapstick grate, and just when you think you are getting a clean stretch of laughs, you are thwacked on the head by loud emotions.

What this film needed was a lightness of touch. What it has is heavy-handedness, most of the time. And fart jokes enough to keep juveniles in splits. (Yeh aawaz kaisi? Arrey kuch nahin, pet mein gas hai). Sigh.

The first half is tough going, with Puri, Dobriyal and Talpade going around in tiny circles before collapsing in a heap, pretty much our state of mind at the point. Post interval, there are a few places where the film tries breaking out of terminal dullness. One sequence where colourful hippie-types are to be seen making marijuana 'parathas’ had the potential to be a riot, but sinks in all the galumphing around. The appearance of a pretty girl (Khanna) in a spot of rustic romance for the middle-bhai gives you a breather, if only for a bit, and makes you wonder where this film with all its acting talent could have gone with a little lift.

It has a wonderful sense of place, which comes from real locations. The mountains are beautifully shot, so you can admire the scenery. The other high point, if you can call it that, is the presence of Deepak Dobriyal, who tries to, and sometimes succeeds, in rising above the obviousness of his lines: both Puri and Talpade are buried under the drifts. Go only if you don’t mind broad humour which overstates its case at every snowflake. Also, if you like your men being called Happy, Chiksi, and Fancy.


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