Directed by: Rajkumar Hirani || Produced by: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Written by: Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani, Lajan Joseph Oommen || Starring: Sanjay Dutt, Arshad Warsi, Jimmy Shergill, Sunil Dutt, Gracy Singh, Boman Irani
Music by: Anu Malik || Cinematography: Binod Pradhan || Editing by: Pradeep Sarkar, Rajkumar Hirani || Country: India || Language: Hindi
Running Time: 156 minutes
It’s not uncommon for a film with a great premise to fall flat on its face. It happens all the time in franchise reboots, remakes, as well as in original projects. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a story’s premise does not deliver on the final presentation. Sometimes, things just don’t turn out as well as they should have. This is the case with Rajkumar Hirani’s 2003 “gangster-premed” drama. Munna Bhai MBBS is a terrible movie.
Following the rambunctious and clever opening scene, it’s all downhill for our gangster, “Brother Munna” (Sanjay Dutt), and his oh so hilarious escapades as the Mumbai crime lord who finds himself trapped in medical school. The setup goes that Munna is crime boss who dons the disguise of a practicing surgeon whenever his parents come to town. Apparently, Munna’s dad (Sunil Dutt) always wished for him to become a doctor, and preferably not a violent gangster, as our protagonist has been keeping up this charade for years, so much that the crime lord created a fake hospital in his father’s name. His trusting father is so fooled by the lie that he convinces his old acquaintance, Dr. Athsana (Boman Irani), to marry Munna to Athsana’s daughter, Dr. Suman “Chinki” (Gracy Singh). See where this is going, yet?
The short version of this setup to what can laughably be called a plot, is that Munna gets exposed for the criminal liar he is, his father is ashamed, and the marriage is called off. Munna, feeling terrible for deceiving his parents and publicly embarrassing his father in front of his esteemed rival, decides to lie a bunch more times and cheat his way into the local medical college. This college also happens to be where Athsana administers as dean and Chinki practices; Munna plans to continue lying and cheating there until he gets an “official” MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery) degree.
Initially, I was intrigued by this setup, given how it seemed Munna’s criminal personality would conflict with the grade-grubbing, straight-laced mindsets of a medical college, setting up a sort of Borat (2006)-style culture-clash. For some unfathomable reason, Munna is the most compassionate and understanding of all the adults at Athsana’s school, despite being a violent criminal. He fits into the college right away and is loved by all the students. Writer Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s decision to make the gang leader the most beloved personality in the whole story confuses me to no end. If Munna’s plan was to lie and cheat his way to a degree — essentially fooling his father into thinking he was sorry for lying to him in the first place — why would he be so kindhearted in school? Either go the culture-clash route and have Munna cheat, lie, and bully his way through medical school like a real undercover-gangster would, or have him resolve to forgo his gangster ways and pursue a medical degree for real. But this way the movie does it? It makes no sense and it’s confusing to us!
Aside from butting heads with Bomani’s character now and again, scenes which feel forced and preachy, Munna has no interesting conflicts to overcome throughout the entire movie. The only obstacles the story lazily throws in front of him are a series of half-baked, contrived plot devices where Asthana comes up with one technicality after another from the school rule-book in order to expose Munna’s painfully obvious disguise. The whole story is boring, repetitive, and lacks any tension or drama whatsoever. The few times Munna’s reputation is ever at stake feel laughable because everybody in the story is constantly rooting for the guy, save for one asshole (Irani).
What makes Munna Bhai MBBS a truly terrible movie is that, beyond its basic failing to generate any interest in its story at all, the movie’s “humor” is so bad it never manages to climb above childish slapstick jokes and toilet humor. Sanjay Dutt has zero comedic timing, all Irani does is yell at people, the jokes themselves are awkward, forced, and heavy-handed, and every one of Munna’s cronies, including and especially Arshad Warsi’s character, “Circuit,” are insufferable. This movie’s sense of humor is on the level of an Adam Sandler-comedy.
In effort to stay consistent with the film’s trend of awfulness in every aspect, even the music and dance ensembles in Munna Bhai suck. Usually the dances (or at least the songs, themselves) are guaranteed selling points for Bollywood feature-films, but not here. The main gangster them is repeated ad nauseam throughout the entire course of the movie’s two and a half hours, so at least you’ll have a terrible, memorable soundtrack grinding into your head as you watch the equally terrible jokes. Munnai Bhai (MBBS)! 😀
Most love story side-plots in Bollywood and Hollywood blockbusters are shoehorned in at the last minute for extra mainstream appeal, but the romantic subplot in MBBS feels truly half-assed even by that margin. While the romance in the remarkably similar (in story structure, not quality) 3 Idiots felt somewhat of an afterthought, it served as a necessary obstacle for Aamir Khan’s protagonist to overcome, and Khan’s fear of commitment acted as an important weakness that added depth to his character. It was at least tastefully done. The same cannot be said for Brother Munna’s pinning for “Chinki” (which I assume that isn’t a racial epithet over there). The relationship exists because the script says it does. Both characters read their parts in advance and fall in love accordingly, because everyone knows how much extra financial security pointless romances add to mainstream movies. These actors have no chemistry whatsoever, and scenes with them together are some of the most cringe-worthy in the entire movie.
I don’t want people to think I hate this movie. I hate very few movies. Those films I do detest are part of a small, select group, and it’s a hard one to get into. With that said, Munna Bhai is not a good film no matter how you spin it. I would go so far as to say that it is a terrible one, and any one who tells you otherwise is just plain wrong. Even if you want to watch dumb, childish, slapstick humor purely for the sake of primitive entertainment (i.e. laughing at it because of how bad it is), I don’t understand why you would want to sit through two and a half hours of it. I certainly don’t understand why I sat through all of it. I mean, I’d rather see Munna Bhai MBBS than blood in my urine, but the movie is just so fucking boring.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Munna Bhai MBBS is a pointless, bland story that bores far more than it entertains. Everything blurs together in a colorful, loud mishmash of hamfisted social commentary, juvenile humor, and lame, boring music. This cast is where charisma goes to die.
—> NOT RECOMMENDED. At all. Fuck this movie.
? Two Dutts, one dud. Can I have my 2.5 hours back, please?