Review: Phas Gaye Re Obama
by Neha Bhatt
There is so much to love about Phas Gaye Re Obama that it’s a wonder there was barely a whimper about it at any of the recent award ceremonies this season that claimed to have recognised and appreciated small films like Udaan, Peepli Live, Love, Sex aur Dhoka and Band Baja Barat. For, surely, a satire as subtlety crafted and clever as this deserves to be lauded?
Debutant director Subhash Kapoor engages us with characters that are so warm and impossibly sincere that you can’t help but root for them right from the start, even though they’re unashamedly on the wrong side of the law. Wannabe goon Anni (a fantastic Manu Rishi, as always) who is earnestly taking English speaking classes with Obama ‘s ‘Yes we can’ on his lips desperately wants to migrate to’ Amreeka’. His guru, kidnapper chief Bhaisaab (Sanjai Misra) is so utterly bankrupt that the outgoing on his phone is barred and he’s on the lookout for the next rich prey that can put him back on the gangster world map and take him closer to making it as MLA. That brings us to the cash-trapped NRI Om Shastri, one of the victims of recession, (Rajat Kapoor), who makes a trip back home from the US to hinterland UP to sell his haveli and save his mortgaged home from the clutches of the bank, only to become a victim of Bhaisaab’s kidnapping racket.
Adding to this basket of quirky characters is the man-hating, man-raping female Bandit-queen-like Munni (Neha Dhupia), declared ‘seniormost in this field’ (read: goonery), her sidekicks lined up as Kareena, Deepika, Rani and so on, in order of who’s recently gotten most action! Just as Om Shastri is passed on from kidnapper to kidnapper, and then to the chief kidnapper of the state – a minister – you realize the clever connection of this kidnapping racket in the heart of India to the origin of the economic crisis in the US.
Joining the dots with an even, quick-paced narrative buzzing with hilarious one-liners, the film takes a bird’s eye view of the soured American dream, and on the flipside, the perils of staying on in the environs of hamara Bharat mahaan. There are grim reminders to the stink of corruption, global conflict, economic depression, the Indian obsession with everything American and the sham of Indian politics. Ah, so where does that leave you? This is hardly a film that’s out to be preachy for there’s much fun to be had at our own expense. Let it humour you when Dhanajay Singh (Amol Gupte in great form), the minister for wildlife in the film sacrifices a goat unflinchingly at an inaugural function, or when Om Shastri remarks that India’s underworld is more trustworthy than American’s corporate world. Or just how hastily Bhaisaab runs off with his early share of the ransom to Kullu-Manali, a dream he’s been nursing for some time.
Phas Gaye Re Obama is that rare Hindi film that knows what its talking about, gets its milieu just right and makes its point in the slightest of ways. It scores on several counts; a clever plot, a fantastic ensemble of characters and plenty of food for thought. A spate of films in the recent couple of years have attempted commentary on global themes: terrorism in Kabir Khan’s New York and Renzil D’Silva’s Kurbaan, the hullabaloo over Osama Bin Laden in Abhishek Sharma’s Tere Bin Laden and American’s so-called war against terrorism in Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan. There were more. But none that will make you sit up and take notice like Phas Gaye Re Obama.