Chalo, here’s going ‘barefoot in the Pak’. A runaway dulhan lands up in Lahore. Mercifully, the cross-border goof-up, doesn’t lead to gore, political mumbo jumbo and sermons galore. The accent is on lassi-sweet entertainment, thank the Lord.

That’s the yupside of Happy Bhag Jayegi, written-directed by Mudassar Aziz and co-produced by Aanand L Rai. The downer is that such inadvertent cross-overs have been sampled before, right from Henna in which bridegroom-to-be Rishi Kapoor speed-crashed into Zeba Bakhtiar land.

On another note, you know what happened to luckless Sarbjit Singh who, in a drunken stupor, teetered straight into a hellish jail. And there have been reversal of circumstances too, notably with an angelic cherub from Pakistan fetching up to charm Bajrangi Bhaijaan. What a yarn.

Okay, so much for the backgrounder blah blah, which I bring up to underscore the point that Indo-Pak plotlines have now become a funky formula. Which is why the screenplay is frequently contrived, and Harpreet ‘Happy’ Kaur (Diana Penty) is hardly in the league of Julia Roberts’ impersonation of The Runaway Bride. Instead of the Amritsar-to-Lahore, the travel mix-up could well have been from Amritsar-to-Mumbai-Hyderabad-Honolulu. Take your pick.

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Anyway, Aziz and Rai obviously believe that Pakistan destination has a dollop of difference. So be it. Recline back then and figure out why every man in sight believes that Happy sahiba is the only hotsy totsy in town. How they go gaga over her on both sides of the Wagah. Sure, she’s pretty, gritty and witty.

And so there she is smashing hearts as if they were crystal vase, starting with her dulha-to-be Bagga (oh no, Jimmy Shergill meanly typecast as the eternally vindictive loser). Next: there’s the childhood Valentino (Ali Fazal), a certain Mr Guddu who aspires to become a musician but is no Eric Clapton when it comes to strumming the guitar. How you worry, what if this music man were to play the sitar.

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And the cherry on the gateau, is none other than a Janab Bilal (Abhay Deol, employing his dimples to deadly effect). Janab, by the way is a recalcitrant politician, being coerced to maintain the family tradition in matters of governance. Bagga-Guddu-Bilal and yappy Happy, quite a cute quartet that, supplemented by Janab Bilal’s fiancée, mohatarma Zoya (Momal Sheikh, impressive), who’s quite unhappy about Happy. Natch.

Wonderfully, the situational gags, the romantic shenanigans, and emotional highs and lows are appealing. The moments between Happy and the bemused Bilal Ahmed, indeed, are the centre-point of this picture whose sense of humour carroms between the refreshingly pleasant to the strictly screwball.

In addition, the musical set pieces – particularly Arijit Singh’s Zara Si Dosti – contribute substantially to the film’s upbeat throb. However, Mika Singh’s Gabru Ready To Mingle Hai is as dispensable as a paper napkin.

Undoubtedly, the warmth oozed by the writer-director towards the motley crew of characters is the film’s winning card. Abhay Deol is excellent, speaking through his eyes and body language. Diana Penty, seen after a break of 4 years since Cocktail, displays high energy and is likeable, but if that voice is hers (and not dubbed), it could do with a dialogue coach ASAP.

Piyush Mishra is wryly funny as a Pakistani cop. Ali Fazal stays in character consistently, and is thankfully allocated a strong scene to display his acting chops, which he does expertly.

With all its pros and cons considered, Happy… is this season’s ticket to buy.

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