It's unfortunate when a local artist's Bollywood debut gets banned in Pakistan, case in point: Momal Sheikh and her film Happy Bhag Jayegi.
The censor board agrees that the film is a "humorous movie" that provides "sarcastic entertainment", but also insists that "it is rather anti-Pakistan."
"There's a scene where the characters are standing under a portrait of Quaid-e-Azam and saying 'Aap kab tak hum se jhoot bulwayenge' and it was an obvious joke [mocking the Quaid]," said a source at the censor board.
"There are many such offensive hits towards Pakistan. Our security institutions are being demeaned. An average Pakistani would watch this and their blood would boil," the source asserts.
"We do promote entertainment but not when it's demeaning to our country. Dialogues like India ka namak pura Pakistan kha raha hai clash with our codes and regulations. There is also a lot of swearing and crass language in the film," the source adds.
Though people here didn't get a chance to see the screening of the film, across the border the film opened to mixed reviews. However, most critics lauded Momal Sheikh's performance .
Here's a round-up of what Indian publications had to say about the recently released film and the Pakistani actor's role in it.
From the Deccan Chronicle:
"If you have been waiting for a family entertainer, 'Happy Bhag Jayegi' is the answer to your prayers.
Undoubtedly the actors are the strongest pillars of the film. To begin with, Abhay Deol just steals the show. Ali Fazal is funny and spontaneous as an idle college dropout. Diana Penty will surely surprise you as a brave Punjabi girl. Diana, who had debuted with 'Cocktail', steals the spotlight in every frame. Jimmy Sheirgill once again loses his bride, and makers have encashed this trick very well. One can’t help but feel pity for his character while stepping out of the theatre. Momal Sheikh has few scenes in the film but she is watchable as a possessive classy fiancée."
From Bollywood Hungama:
"Despite the fact that the film's screenplay is predictable, it's the treatment that makes the film entertaining. The humour in the film is excellent and works magic in the first half. The second half however slows down due to multiple subplots and romantic angles, some of which seem quite forced.
Making her debut in Bollywood is Momal Sheikh whose approach towards her character exudes superlative confidence. Besides the fact that Happy Bhag Jayegi is her Bollywood debut in which she had been pitted alongside seasoned actors, the conviction with which she handles her character is highly commendable. Ali Fazal, on the other hand, delivers what was required of him in the role of a lover boy."
"Happy Bhag Jayegi seeks to provide clean entertainment. The language is antiseptic, the women aren't objectified, and the men aren't lousy louts even when their actions aren't particularly edifying. These are small mercies that add up to a lot.
Momal Sheikh, in her first big screen release, is a welcome addition to the growing tribe of Pakistani actresses trying their luck in Mumbai films. While Jimmy Sheirgill is treated rather shabbily by the script, Piyush Mishra gets the best lines. The latter revels in the opportunity and provides the film's brighter moments."
From Indian Express:
"The premise of Happy Bhag Jayegi, promises you some good chuckles, but all too soon, the pleasures of the film dwindle, and we are left to fend for ourselves, looking for something that will make us laugh, even if it is weak laughter. There is some of it, but it is far too intermittent.
Good to see Abhay Deol back in the groove after his disastrous previous outing One By Two, and the very pretty very swish-in-her-designer-threads Momal Sheikh (a popular TV actor who also happens to be Javed Sheikh’s daughter) gives him something to work on. The third angle in this triangle is touched upon but its potential is never fully realised. And that goes for the film as a whole. When will our films be better written?"
From First Post:
What the trailer of Happy Bhag Jayegi does not reveal is that the film’s best moments have been packed into it, and there is nothing much else it has to say.
These are among the few moments of maturity in the screenplay. The others come in the atypical portrayal of the film’s Punjabis (they do not call out “Balle Balle” or dance the Bhangra at the drop of a hat) and in the writing of Zoya (Momal Sheikh). She could have easily been pigeonholed as the evil doosri aurat (other woman) in the hero’s life, but somewhere along the way, a spot of nuance enters the picture and she becomes more than that lazy stereotype. One of the film’s nicest scenes is the one in which she urges Bilal to make his own life decisions rather than bowing to his father’s wishes at all times.
Not too bad for a debut!