Cirkus review: Ranveer ‘shocks’ you but Sanjay Mishra leads Rohit Shetty’s tribute to Angoor

No retelling or remake as Rohit Shetty adds his flavour to William Shakespeare’s classic The Comedy of Errors literary art.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

By Mayur Lookhar

We’re no great fan of his cinema, but we immensely respect filmmaker Rohit Shetty for his contribution to Bollywood. His cinema might be too larger-than-life, melodramatic, over-the-top for our liking but Shetty stands tall as the most successful filmmaker of the era. Efforts to ape his style has yielded in disaster. At a time when formulaic films are increasingly losing its appeal, it is astonishing how Shetty has been able to hold onto to his audience.

He’s largely told comedies or action dramas. Having explored the cop universe in Simmba [2018] and Sooryavanshi [2021], Shetty returns to comedy with Cirkus [2022]. There’s no magic or acrobats, but this Cirkus draws it energy from William Shakespeare’s acclaimed The Comedy of Errors play. The classic literary work inspired Bengali writer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar to pen his novel Bhranti Bilas [1869] that was later [1963] adapted into a film of the same name. Bhranti Bilas inspired Debu Sen to remake it in Hindi as Do Dooni Chaar [1968]. Gulzar wrote that film and then in 1982 helmed a comedy of errors story of his own – the cult classic Angoor [1982]. We recollect Rohit Shetty waxing praise about Angoor calling it the finest Hindi comedy. After all these years, it’s Shetty’s turn to tap into The Comedy of Errors. Cirkus is no remake or adaption, it is more a Rohit Shetty tribute to Angoor [1982].

Shetty and his writer Yunus Sajawal’s [adapted screenplay] story begins in 1942 at a plush Jamnadas orphanage in Ooty that is run by brothers Joy [Uday Tikekar] and Dr. Roy [Murali Sharma]. The latter deliberately mixes a pair of twins not with any malice but with a larger social cause in mind. Two boys are adopted by wealthy parents in Bangalore, while the other two are adopted by a couple that manages the famous Jubilee Cirkus in Ooty. Remarkably, both set of parents name their boys as Roy and Joy. Now that’s what you call Kudrat ka karishma [nature’s miracle]. 30 years later, a business trip to Ooty sets the stage for a comedy of errors.

In times where cliched content is a big turn off, it’s very brave of Shetty to have picked a done-to-death subject. Though set in the 60s, Shetty takes his inseparable Golmaal gang – Sanjay Mishra, Johnny Lever, Mukesh Tiwari, Murali Sharma, Ashwini Kalsekar, Vrajesh Hirjee – to create the confusion in Cirkus. Ranveer Singh and Varun Sharma are the lead actors, but they simply play along to the comedy of errors, inadvertently orchestrated by the Golmaal gang. 

Rohit Shetty is the ringmaster, but it’s no Ranveer Singh but Sanjay Mishra who is the chief clown in this Cirkus. Mishra’s Rai Bahadur encompasses the cockiness, quirkiness of the Rai Bahadurs of the era, who either played the girl’s rich father or stylish villains. Mishra’s tone has shades of Jeevan and also Sudhir, but the character is an amalgamation of the quirky villains of the yore. Rai Bahadur is no antagonist. He’s simply worried over his daughter Bindu’s [Jacqueline Fernandez] future who is in relationship with the Roy [Ranveer Singh] from Bangalore. Rai Bahadur likens himself to Richie Rich, but carries the swag of a Jeevan.

L-R: Jacqueline Fernandez, Sanjay Mishra, Ranveer Singh, Varun Sharma in Cirkus [2022]

The early messy screenplay threatens to burn down this Cirkus. The film gathers momentum after the interval. The much-improved writing, quality of humour invigorates Mishra who then takes you on a non-stop laughter ride. The veteran redefines slapstick in its literal sense. The red lines on his cheeks tell a story onto themselves. It might be a tad over-the-top, but Rai Bahadur takes pride in his vanity. Prem [Anil Charanjeett] is meant to be Rai Bahadur’s loyal man Friday, but this equation mirrors the Kader Khan and Johnny Lever bond in Dulhe Raja [1998]. Charanjeett, too, comes into his own in the latter half.

Mukesh Tiwari steps into the shoes of Bagheera, presumably the ancestor of his dreaded dacoit Jageera from China Town [1998]. Bagheera has given up dacoity and now runs the Century hotel in Ooty. Here’s a dacoit who made good use of his loot. “Now we live with respect and peace,” he says proudly.  The shooting is now restricted to a leisure activity for his guests. Tiwari is adorable in this Bagheera avatar.

Veteran comedian Johnny Lever comes late to the fold as Polson dada. He gives the word self-respect a whole new meaning urging his men to not seek his blessings, but touch their own feet. Ironically, this self-respect goes for a toss while gleefully accepting loot items as birthday gifts. As often, Lever amuses more with his facial expressions. However, we’re still giggling over his ‘lollypop’ jibe at the bald hairstylist Aalim Hakim.

The master [Lever] does fine but the pupil Siddhartha Jadhav ends up as a poor clone. It’s befuddling how Jadhav hogs the screenplay in the first half.

The Ooty setting adds onto to Pooja Hegde’s screentime. Hegde shows a marked improvement from her dreaded showing in Mohenjo Daro [2016] and Housefull 4 [2019]. However, she could have wished for better writing to her character Mala in Cirkus.  

We’ve never rated her much, but for once Jacqueline Fernandez looked par for the course. Though brief, but Fernandez makes a decent impression as Bindu, the fiancé of the Roy from Bangalore. Her characters rides on the sitcom, with the retro music complementing the chaos.

We’ve spoken of the supporting cast, leading ladies, but the lead actors Ranveer Singh and Varun Sharma find a late mention. Perhaps, it’s the nature of the script that sees them largely confused over the comedy of errors. The reticent Varun Sharma is a pleasant surprise from his loud, over-zealous characters. Yet the talent feels untapped here.

Last but not the least. Ranveer Singh shares a great bond with Rohit Shetty.  The Ching’s ad to Simmba to the cameo in Sooryavanshi [2021], what’s common to all is how we’ve seen a live wire Ranveer in each of these acts. It’s a lively bond between Shetty and Singh off camera too.  While he absorbs and gives his co-actors the current, the two performances that we see from Ranveer are anything but electrifying. The thunderbolt Singh is evident in the Current Laga Re song. It helps to have your wife [Deepika Padukone] around you. The nature of the script largely reduced Singh to being a reactive soul.

We’re no stickler for realism, but for a man who is labelled as the Electric Man of Ooty, surely his exploits would have made it to print in neighboring state, Karnataka. Cirkus presents Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as two states that are poles apart. Nevertheless, a Cirkus helps Singh to get a taste of Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal world.

What’s consistent about Cirkus is the production design of Swapnil Bhalerao. It might be a little far fetched, but the viewers will welcome the colorful, rich representation of Ooty and Bangalore in the 60s. For once, it’s glad not to see extreme colour grading or flying cars in a Rohit Shetty film.

The popular director makes a sincere attempt at reviving a cliched subject. What’s admirable is the social cause that Cirkus endorses. Relationships aren’t defined by bloodlines, but it’s the upbringing that thickens the bond. Cirkus has its loose ends. The early show is deflating, but the second half actions help it draw the cheers. Critics will have their say but the giggling voices of little children in the special screening is what makes Rohit Shetty a family entertainer. Who are we to rule out families thronging to Rohit Shetty’s Cirkus!


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