Bangistan is a mythical island split into two by a water body. There’s North Bangistan and South Bangistan. This land is called Bangistan because its people go bang-bang at each other all the time.
We are not concerned by most of the people, of course. Only three sets of people concern us.
On top of the pile sits the calm and ineffective aman-shanti chanting duo, North’s Imam Sahib (Tom Alter) and South’s Shankaracharya (Shiv Subramaniam). They are secretly on friendly terms. Saddened by routine rioting between their people, they Skype each other to commiserate, bitch and discuss the new Pope Ji.
Below them are the twitchers — men itching for some bloody action for the sake of their political agendas. There’s Guruji who heads Maa Ka Dal in South and Abba Jaan who heads Al Kaam Tamam in North. Both men (played by the same actor, Kumud Mishra) believe dar ke aage jeet hai.
At the bottom of the pile squat the imbeciles — Harold urf Hafeez Bin Ali (Riteish Deshmukh) and Praveen Chaturvedi (Pulkit Samrat). One works at a BPO and the other plays Hanuman in Ramlila.
North Bangistan is bathed in green and white. It’s a world of men with flowing beards, large weapons, and women in burqas. Its terrain points fingers at Afghanistan.
South Bangistan, which looks like Benaras, is swathed in yellow, red and saffron. Here trishuls of all sizes abound — even on foreheads. We don’t see any women here. Only men. Slight and slimy.
The film spends a lot of time introducing us to these people and places because it has many jokes to crack and it can’t contain itself. Not much happens, but we don’t mind because we are tickled by the film’s subversive spirit.
These two worlds, imagined in exaggeration and realised with winking buffoonery, are ironic and very funny. The North has FcDonald’s where men and women queue up for a bite of ham and the book on Hindoos is a DIY yoga manual.
Every piece of excess is either a wry joke or a scathing political comment. It’s both clever and bold.
Guruji and Abba Jaan separately hatch the same plan — to bomb the 13th World Religious Conference in Krakow, Poland. And the suicide bombers, the men who will go to jannat and swarg respectively, are Hafeez and Praveen.
Both boys change their identities and head to Krakow where they ghettoise and fraternise, as is often the case in foreign parts.
To accomplish mission, one goes to the Russians to buy a bomb, while the other meets the Chinese. Intermittently, they talk about the Gita and the Quran.
Even now, the film is somewhat funny.
But soon the story stalls. The suicide bombers have to just get from Point A to Point B and go blast. But the story flails about, getting nowhere. After interval,Bangistan goes all preachy and weepy. There aren’t any jokes and the film keeps going for a song, and then another, and another… It’s a drag.
Bangistan has three writers, yet very little has been written for the second part of the film apart from a general plea to not blast each other with bombs and hate. Lazy writing and incompetent direction make rubbish an idea that was fun and exciting.
Observed minutely, almost everything and everyone in the subcontinent — thanks mostly to our deference to all manner of class, caste, age and gender hierarchies — is so unbelievably incompetent that our lives and behaviour lend themselves beautifully to comic adaptation.
And because we all take ourselves and our bigoted ways so seriously, laughing at ourselves is a no-no. That’s why it’s a rare treat to see ourselves caricatured and our worldview satirised. Bangistan starts off on that note — it’s rooted in our reality, in our evil, comically. But, apart from setting up its world and cracking a few jokes, it has nothing more to say. Either the writers were too halfwitted to have a real opinion, or too scared to take the story to its gory end and laugh at the mayhem. Whatever the case, the outcome is that the film spends the second half chanting that puerile mantra — love is the only real religion, in effect, turningBangistan into Boreistan.
That’s the problem with city-bred satire and comic writers of our times. Their creativity pirouettes on their naivety and misplaced belief in the superiority of their “humanity above all” philosophy. It’s sweetly appealing to all at a superficial level, but it is an intellectual copout. It doesn’t amount to anything.
Writer-director Karan Anshuman and his co-writers could have taken a clue from Chris Morris’ Four Lions (2012), an achingly funny satire on religious fanaticism and terror. It uses exactly that — the subcontinent’s ineptness — to brilliant effect.
But they probably couldn’t. Their average IQ is apparent in scenes with girls. At the entry of girls — whether as telemarketing babes or bikini-clad BPO customers or Jacqueline Fernandez — the film instantly degenerates into the sort of imbecility we’ve come to expect from everything that Riteish Deshmukh touches. Ms Fernandez, for example, is there only to lend the silhouette of one tit to the screen. We get darshan of that one tit more than once.
Howsoever objectionable Riteish Deshmukh’s choice of scripts may be, his comic timing isn’t bad. But here he seems to be in some sort of depression. He looks morose throughout, acts even more morose. Pulkit Samrat, on the other hand, seems very excited and only screams and overacts.
Kumud Mishra, who plays both Guruji and Abba Jaan, is the only actor worth the money spent by its makers and us on Bangistan. He makes the screen sparkle every time he’s on it. Wish there was more of him. Wish the film was really about Guruji versus Abba Jaan. Wish the writers were ballsy.