The term "lowbrow comedy" is used to describe a kind of broad, farce-like, slapstick-filled effort to make you laugh – but the term is a little offensive. All of us like to laugh, whether the source of the laughter is lowbrow or highbrow. I forget the name of the film now, but one of the one-liners that I laughed at very loudly in the theatre was when an actor in a thick blanket said his name was "Kambal Haasan". It takes a special kind of crackpot brain to come up with inspired nonsense like that, and at least in theory, Rohit Shetty's Cirkus has a lot of inspired nonsense. Sanjay Mishra is in terrific form as a high-society man who speaks Hindi with a strange English accent. He gets this line: "Samundar mein susu karne se tsunami nahin hota." This happens very early in the film, and I lit up. As I said, it takes a special kind of crackpot brain to come up with inspired nonsense like that.
I thought that, for a change, Rohit and his team had actually worked on the script and the dialogues instead of just dialling up the volume and attempting to make us laugh. But no. It's the same-old, same-old. As is always the case in Rohit's films, there's a ton of ideas for inspired nonsense – but the inspiration is not extended and used to its fullest potential. There's a former dacoit who now runs a hotel. It sounds nuts. But on screen, it's not nuts at all. We wonder why such a colourful character was invented if you're not going to use him at all. It's not that I stayed glum throughout. I loved the idea of playing Aao twist karen or Badan pe sitare when electric current passes through a man and his convulsions look like he's channelling his inner Shammi Kapoor. But these inspired nonsense bits are few and far between. Most of what we get is just plain nonsense, like a line that goes, "Meri Nirupa Roy / Give me that toy."
The plot is based on Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors, which was made as Do Dooni Char, and then remade as Angoor. Two pairs of twins are switched and we watch the resulting confusion, played out by two Ranveer Singhs, two Varun Sharmas, Pooja Hegde, Jacqueline Fernandez, and a riot of comic-book colours put in by the production designer. But where's the effort? There's a jeweller who doubles as an Urdu poet. There's a cab driver who says ominous things. But why are they so underused? Okay, I laughed at the running gag about a pair of spectacles flying off a man who is slapped hard. That's how it goes: ten dull bits and then one good laugh, ten dull bits and then one good laugh… The only takeaway from Cirkus is that it's not easy making lowbrow comedy. Excuse me now as I head to YouTube to watch Johny Lever and Upasana Singh going abba dabba jabba…
National Award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan, former deputy editor of The Hindu and senior editor of Film Companion, has carved a niche for himself over the years as a powerful voice in cinema, especially the Tamil film industry, with his reviews of films. While he was pursuing his chemical engineering degree, he was fascinated with the writing and analysis of world cinema by American critics. Baradwaj completed his Master’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations through scholarship. His first review was for the Hindi film Dum, published on January 30, 2003, in the Madras Plus supplement of The Economic Times. He then started critiquing Tamil films in 2014 and did a review on the film Subramaniapuram, while also debuting as a writer in the unreleased rom-com Kadhal 2 Kalyanam. Furthermore, Baradwaj has authored two books - Conversations with Mani Ratnam, 2012, and A Journey Through Indian Cinema, 2014. In 2017, he joined Film Companion South and continued to show his prowess in critiquing for the next five years garnering a wide viewership and a fan following of his own before announcing to be a part of Galatta Media in March 2022.