Dir: Raj Mehta
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Emraan Hashmi
What’s in a selfie? A lot, as it turns out. Sometimes, it represents our love for ourselves. But more often, it is validation of a moment spent with either someone who is important to us or someone who is important in the world. It’s a record of our most cherished memories when it is a selfie with a celebrity or favourite star. Director Raj Mehta’s latest offering Selfiee, fronted by Akshay Kumar and Emraan Hashmi, explores the power that a picture holds. Hashmi’s RTO Inspector Om Prakash Agarwal is thrilled that his idol, movie star Vijay Kumar (Kumar), is in his city to shoot his next. Kumar urgently needs to renew his driving license, and Agarwal is more than happy to serve him, but he also sees this as a chance to meet his star and requests a mediator to get the star to the RTO office so that his son and he can get a selfie with him.
The star obliges, and the fan turns a government office into a banquet with flowers, lights, and sweets to welcome his guest. However, a misunderstanding makes his hero the biggest villain in his life. The fan vs star battle forms the rest of the story. Mehta, who has adapted the Prithviraj Sukumaran-starrer Malayalam hit Driving Licence, treats the story written by Sachy and the screenplay by Rishabh Sharma with his trademark lightness. There is humour at play through most of the film, with hilarious commentary on the ways of the glamour industry and star rivalries. The team’s understanding of the industry is reflected in some of the funniest dialogues.
At the same time, the director and writers bring innocence and sensitivity to the world of Agarwal, who even while fighting his “God” cannot help but surrender to the sacred devotion he feels for him. From Good Newwz, Jugjugg Jeeyo to now Selfiee, Mehta’s hold on human emotions and complexities remains intact, which also makes him a dependable filmmaker in the commercial space. Here’s a director whose grammar involves balancing humour in a story with adequate emotional depth. In Selfiee, though, Mehta also benefits from Hashmi’s brilliance. As a star-struck fan, the actor displays endearing naivety; and as the father in him takes charge over the character, Hashmi invokes striking vulnerability, which also leaves you teary-eyed.
From a performance perspective, Mehta uses the strengths of his leading men well. So, while Kumar is given wit to play with, considering his impeccable comic timing, Hashmi does the heavy-lifting and grounds the film. This also disbalances the film’s emotional core, as Kumar’s stiffness restricts the story’s depth. The actor’s inability to look like the superstar, who is desired and worshipped by millions, is another factor that brings the movie down.
What ultimately prevents Selfiee from becoming a memorable entertainer is the shift in its focus from a war between a star and his devotee, to a challenge to pass a driving licence test. You start to get detached from the story and stop caring for anyone because you are busy understanding the rules of safe driving. It’s in the last 15 minutes that Mehta returns to the primary conflict, and reminds the audience of the lesson that the film initially intended to teach: a fan is a fan, with or without a selfie. In the end, the film feels a lot like a selfie we liked, but not enough to post because it could have been better.