3 Stars (out of 4)
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Ajay Devgn has something of an uneven record when it comes to the comedic roles he chooses. His deadpan delivery suits films like Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge? and Bol Bachchan, while his attempts at goofier roles in movies like All the Best and Rascals fall flat. Devgn hits the right wacky notes in Son of Sardaar, a silly film that has its heart in the right place.
Devgn plays Jassi, a Punjabi living in London who returns to the small town he left as a child, stumbling into a long-simmering family feud. Turns out Jassi’s father and the patriarch of the Sandhu family killed each other in a fight, and Sandhu’s heirs have vowed to avenge his death.
The new head of the Sandhu family, Billoo (Sanjay Dutt), swore an oath on the night of his uncle’s murder — Billoo’s own wedding night — not to marry until he murders Jassi. Consequently, Billoo’s bride-to-be, Pammi (Juhi Chawla), has grown impatient after waiting twenty-five years and is eager to marry.
Unfortunately for desperate Pammi, Billoo is a man of strong traditional values and won’t even look at her, let alone kiss her, before they are married. These values also put Jassi’s death sentence on hold after he is unwittingly invited into Billoo’s house. Since guests customarily get special treatment, Jassi is safe as long as he remains in Billoo’s home. It also gives Jassi time to fall for Billoo’s beautiful cousin, Sukh (Sonakshi Sinha), who gets a couple of montages accompanied by odd 80’s hair-metal-inspired musical themes.
The film works because Jassi is a sweet, likeable guy who doesn’t want to make trouble. He endears himself to the women of the Sandhu family — who aren’t aware of his part in the feud — and he’s able to keep finding ways to extend his stay.
Devgn plays Jassi with a wide-eyed fascination and enthusiasm that are endearing. My favorite moment in the film is when Devgn appears to be genuinely startled by a pigeon. This performance is a great counter to the put-upon cynicism that Devgn normally does so well. This might be my favorite performance of his career.
Given Jassi’s Sikh warrior heritage, he’s no pushover. His turban doubles as a weapon and winds itself back into place. It’s a silly effect, but Son of Sardaar swears no allegiance to the properties of physics. Most of the fight scenes rely upon slow-motion effects requiring the actors to don harnesses under their clothing. Trimming thirty minutes or so of rehashed fight and chase scenes would’ve done wonders for the film.
Dutt is solid as Jassi’s adversary, while Sinha is likewise good in the same type of role she’s played several times before. Besides Devgn, the other star of the film is Chawla. Pammi’s attempts to seduce Billoo into giving her a chaste kiss on the cheek are funny, and Chawla brings the same kind of earnest sweetness to her role as Devgn does to his.
Son of Sardaar might not be particularly fresh, but Devgn shows how to properly play the loveable goofball role. A character isn’t loveable just because other characters describe him that way; he has to act loveable. Devgn does just that, making Son of Sardaar an enjoyable film to watch.