Reviewing the Reviews: Joker

03 Sep,2012


Key Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha

Written and Directed By: Shirish Kunder

Produced By: Farah Khan, Akshay Kumar


Joker jokes had started making the rounds on the net when the first promos came out. By then Shirish Kunder’s stock had already hit a low in Bollywood (for reasons other than his filmmaking) and it was as if people wanted to hate the film… and to make it easier, Kunder delivered a custom-made dud of epic proportions. No wonder everybody connected with the film deserted the sinking (space)ship. It’s an embarrassment the makers won’t be allowed to forget in a hurry.


It got panned universally with one or 1.5 star ratings. Karan Anshuman of Mumbai Mirror was one of the few relatively kind ones with 2.5 stars. He wrote, with uncharacteristic generosity . “I’ll give credit to Kunder for attempting to execute new (strictly relative to a mass Indian audience) ideas in a commercial set up. I found his last directorial venture Jaan-e-Mann good fun as well for its experiment in the mainstream. Unfortunately it didn’t work at the BO, and now I wonder about Joker. Let’s be perfectly clear that Joker is not for you if you’re over 12. This is a kids’ film and must be considered, ie reviewed, as one. That it has not been promoted as a children’s movie is confounding because surely the producers did not mean for it to be seen and enjoyed by thinking adults. Once you accept this, at a breezy 105 minutes, some sense can be made of this Joker.”


Anupama Chopra of Hindustan Times wrote, “Joker testifies to the power of the star in Bollywood. It is staggeringly inept. I can’t imagine that it was persuasive even as a concept. Yet it got made, in all likelihood because Akshay Kumar said yes. (Curiously, after making it, he disengaged from the project and didn’t do any promotion)….. The humour is so lame that it physically hurts and, by the second half, the film loses all semblance of coherence. The White House, the FBI, the Indian Army and aliens who look like vegetables with limbs make appearances.”


Rajeev Masand of IBN Live commented, “It’s easy to write off Joker as a complete failure, but to give credit where it’s due, the film is less offensive than many Akshay Kumar films we’ve seen recently. Devoid of double-meaning dialogues and sexist jokes, there is stuff here that might have made for an engaging children’s film, had Kunder not fallen prey to that oldest mistake – of treating his audience like fools…. Joker unfolds briskly and predictably. Alas, just as you’re confronted with an unpredictable twist in the tale, the film comes to a screeching halt. Once again, an opportunity wasted. ”


Shubhra Gupta of the Indian Express was left aghast. “At one point, a character in Joker says : sweet mother of god, what the hell is going on? In my humble opinion, he leaves it too late. I tried saying much the same as soon as the film opens, but I couldn’t get it passed my dropped jaw. Within a couple of minutes, the films establishes that it will connect the dots between a NASA scientist in search of aliens, and a village that fell off the map somewhere in the middle of India, and a bunch of ‘mad’ people. A NASA man in search of aliens? A village populated by ‘maniacs’ that fell off the map somewhere in the middle of India? Seriously? Could this be the film that would really be completely and entertainingly out of the box? I was all set to be regaled. But it was not to be, not once in its mercifully short run time of less than two hours.”


Raja Sen of scoffed, “So what happens if a film — one ostensibly in the guise of a comedy — doesn’t try too hard? The humour here isn’t grating, overdone, outrageous, offensive, excruciating, unwatchable. This, then, may just be an approach that could be called a step forward in an Akshay Kumar comedy if only the aforementioned humour wasn’t also nonexistent. There isn’t a single line in Kunder’s film that actually works, leaving us with a film that, while commendably brisk in a 100-minute package, refuses to get going at all.”


Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV ranted, “Joker is a crude joke of a film that will leave you in tears unless you have a stomach strong enough to digest such unmitigated junk. Occasionally, trash does have its uses in the domain of entertainment. But when it decomposes and turns into putrid garbage, it stinks. Yes, Joker is a load of rubbish that belongs in the dump yard.


The single star that the film gets is for the fact that Joker is probably the first mainstream comic fantasy made in Mumbai. That apart, it has nothing that remotely resembles a redeeming routine. Pity, even Chitrangada Singh’s Kaafirana dil can make no dent. What Joker delivers in the garbled guise of the genre plumbs such depths of vapidity that it stands no chance of ever coming up for air. The run time of the film is an hour and forty-five minutes. Thank God for small mercies. But even at that length, Joker is difficult to deal with.”


Even Taran Adarsh of bollywoodhungama threw up his hands and called it a disaster. “Although the title may give an impression that it’s all about a funny guy trying to make people laugh, the fact is that this one’s about guys pretending to be aliens and how, eventually, they face an actual alien in the end. On the brighter side, the setting and structures look magical and to build an entire story around a desolate village must have been enchanting. But interesting concepts don’t necessarily translate into interesting films. Joker runs out of gas as soon as director Shirish Kunder establishes the plot, because neither does the comic quotient work, nor do the aliens [fake and actual] salvage the show. In fact, the film makes a mockery of everything you may have seen or heard of UFOs and aliens.”


There’s always the TOI’s 2.5 to salvage egos. Srijana Mitra Das write, “Straight up - Joker arouses extreme passions. You’ll love it or hate it. It’s a totally off-the-wall entertainer powered by corny jokes, OTT filmi characters and tongue-in-cheek sequences. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll laugh out loud. If you don’t, it’s not for you.”


The question then is: who is it for?


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