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Wells Fargo’s love affair with Bollywood continues with Shah Rukh Khan’s Happy New Year

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Last year Ram-Leela, now HNY.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: Wells Fargo hosted a screening of the Bollywood blockbuster Happy New Year last Saturday, treating a lively Washington, DC-area crowd to popcorn, soda, and a sold-out showing of Farah Khan’s latest big-screen extravaganza.

A Bollywood film seems to be the preferred choice for Wells Fargo to entertain the local community, as last year they had hosted a similar screening, of the Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone starrer Ram-Leela.

Happy New Year is the third film to feature the dynamic duo of Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone, following their super-hit collaborations in Chennai Express and 2007’s Om Shanti Om, the latter of which was Padukone’s debut feature and was also directed by Farah Khan. Both films briefly became the most financially successful films in Bollywood history, and Happy New Year, which rolled out on October 24, is enjoying a great run at the box office.

The film follows Charlie (Khan), a brilliant conman who has fallen on hard times, as he assembles a team to take down a ruthless business magnate (Jackie Shroff) who betrayed his father years ago. The team Charlie assembles – which includes characters played by Boman Irani, Sonu Sood, Vivaan Shah (son of Naseeruddin Shah), and Abhishek Bachchan – must break into a highly secure safe and steal a set of priceless diamonds. But to do so, they must enter into a dance competition that’s taking place in the same Dubai hotel where the diamonds are being kept, forcing them to hire Padukone’s character, a nightclub dancer who could be the key to making the whole plan work.

Shot on a lavish budget and filled with colorful songs and even more colorful performances, Happy New Year is a full-on masala entertainer that requires turning off your brain for three hours and just enjoying the ride. Though the movie is too long and the gags somewhat inconsistent, it’s clear that the cast had a ball making the film, and that sense of fun and enthusiasm bleeds right off the screen and into the theater.

The music, by regular Shahrukh collaborators Vishal & Shekhar, are peppy and do a good job of supporting the story without dragging things to a halt, with “Lovely,” “Manwa Laage,” and “India Waale” being the soundtrack’s standouts. Farah Khan’s direction is decent, although just as schizophrenic as her other films (Main Hoon Na, Om Shanti Om, and Tees Maar Khan). Happy New Year often goes from screwball comedy to romance to tearjerker to action film and back – sometimes within a matter of minutes.

Nevertheless, Happy New Year provides a solid few hours of comedy and thrills, with good performances from Shah Rukh, Padukone, and especially Bachchan. It won’t win any points for originality or depth, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do, and sometimes that’s good enough.