This is how a remake should be done. Instead of being a blind scene-by-scene copy of the eminently watchable Malayalam film Driving Licence, Selfiee extracts its own energy from the source material and gives us a rollicking film.
True, the tussle between a celluloid superstar and a common man is not as edgy as it was in the original, mainly for the reason that Emraan Hashmi plays the earnest sincere angry common man with way too much emphasis. Sometimes the punctuations obstruct the free flow of his emotions.
But Akshay Kumar as superstar Vijay Kumar, sometimes arrogant, sometimes unreasonable but at other times surprisingly compassionate, is every bit as brilliantly nuanced as Prithviraj Sukumaran in the original.
But what am I comparing the two? Selfiee has a life energy flow and rhythm of its own. The adaptation is astute and adroit, charming and wickedly film. For example, the superstar Vijay Kumar’s latest hit is called—hold your breath—Don’t Angry Me. For those who came in late, that’s a phrase from Akshay Kumar’s Rowdy Rathod.
Whether playing the humble superstar with folded hands in front of his fans, a concerned team leader, or a doting husband to his ‘twinkling wife (Diana Penty, very charming in the little that she has to do) Akshay makes us forget his listless performance in his last 6-7 films.
It is interesting that Akshay comes on screen at the beginning to address the audience in a monologue that basically tells us, ‘Hey guys, that’s not me in this film although I play a superstar.’ And he then goes on to give us an improved power-packed version of himself. But let’s be clear on this: playing a fictionalized version of oneself on screen is not easy Akshay’s Vijay Kumar works because Akshay is a superstar in real life.
Ayushmann Khurrana’s superstar in An Action Hero didn’t, because he is not. The drama of dissension is dotted with impressive acting talent. Meghna Malik as a publicity-hungry small-time bureaucrat is a hoot.
The star-fan relationship is dealt with some understanding of the dynamics of hero-worship. But subtlety, a quality often seen in Akshay’s performance, is drowned in a furore of hectic plot developments.
The superstar Vijay Kumar meets his match while shooting in Bhopal for a new film when a regional transport office Om Prakash Aggarwal(Hashmi) takes him on in a game of cat-and-mouse that has enough juice to keep the proceedings on high alert even when the plot has made its point long before: don’t anger the common man or test his patience.
Selfiee does neither. It is plucky precocious and amiable. On the minus side, the plot, perky and peppery as it is, has to suffer an obstreperous intrusive downright inept background score. Also, the first ten minutes are terrible. Trimming needed.
It would be self-defeating—or should I say, selfie-defeating?—to ignore this film on the basis of Akshay Kumar’s recent duds.
Ratings: **** (4/5)