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Wild Wild Punjab: A Lukewarm Adventure in Comedy

It was evident, even before Varun Sharma clambered onto the roof of a car, unfastened his fly, and shot out a tall projectile of piss, that “Wild Wild Punjab” was not a serious film. But is it even that wild? The aforementioned scene is probably the looniest thing that happens—a nod, perhaps, to “Fukrey 3,” which had an entire pee-based plotline dedicated to Sharma. The rest of Simarpreet Singh’s film is oddly strained and docile, a blur of ham-fisted hijinks and inane one-liners. “Respect, dude,” someone tells Sharma’s character, a compliment I cannot extend to the film.

Khanna, portrayed by Sharma, is reeling from a breakup, his girlfriend having grazed off for greener pastures. Who could blame her? Khanna’s buddies—Maan (Sunny Singh), Gaurav (Jassie Gill), and Honey (Manjot Singh)—rustle up a plan to drag him out of his misery. They will ride down from Patiala to Pathankot, gatecrash the wedding of his ex (Asheema Vardaan), and let Khanna say his piece. None of which, of course, goes exactly to plan, as the quartet gets into manic misadventures motoring down the Punjab countryside.

Throughout, writers Sandeep Jain and Harman Wadala—fleshing out a story by Luv Ranjan—traffic in the lowest of cultural stereotypes. The Punjabis in “Wild Wild Punjab” come across as trigger-happy buffoons, boisterous revelers who siphon alcohol from barrels and have a finicky attachment to their wheels. The disparate problems of the state—drug abuse, suicide, gangsterism, illegal emigration—become puerile punchlines. Honey, with his mustache and kind-hearted demeanor, registers as a caricature of a gold-hearted Sardar, his benignancy triggered by a woman in distress calling him ‘Veere’. There is interest, somewhere at the juvenile heart of this film, in examining the dowry problem in Punjab. However, all that is undone by lines like, “I’ll slap her…I don’t discriminate between boy and girl,” or the frequent references to Khanna’s ex as ‘veshya’ (real name: Vaishali).

It is an act of heroic restraint, really, that Pulkit Samrat and Ali Fazal from the Fukrey franchise do not make cameos in this film. Sharma, slurry and often shit-faced through most of the runtime, taking a belated bullet in his rear end, is barely distinguishable from any of his past roles.

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. Sunny Singh looks more relaxed than he did in “Adipurush,” having traded the bows and arrows for a buzzcut and piercings. For a buddy comedy, the film never convincingly establishes the dynamics of the group. “There’s a difference between a Sufi and a gold digger,” Maan declares vis-a-vis Vaishali, yet we also learn that he mooches off his best friends.

“Wild Wild Punjab” runs low on horsepower and horseplay. Simarpreet, a debutant director, struggles to choreograph the levels of comedic chaos he clearly aspires to: a chase involving a psychedelic truck, an SUV, a scooter, and a police van fizzles out without punch. Near the climax, a bottle of illegal pills is unloaded into chicken feed, yet nothing comes of this promising setup. This isn’t a “Hangover” movie, we’re told, which struck me as less a quip than a frank admission of defeat.

This movie takes on a mighty challenge in attempting to deliver a gripping narrative infused with humor, but it falters more often than it succeeds. While the dynamic Punjab setting offers a rich backdrop for potential comedy, the film chooses instead to lean heavily on dull stereotypes and threadbare gags that wear thin quickly. The humor is cheaply bought and often offensive, undermining any sincere message it might hope to impart about societal issues in Punjab.

The cast brings recognizable warmth, but their efforts are misplaced in a storyline that seldom rises above mediocrity. Varun Sharma’s Khanna is a figure all too familiar, echoing roles seen in previous comedies without any fresh nuance. Sunny Singh does, through calmer performance, capture a more macho and less comedic tone than his peers, but it’s not enough to lift the overall quality.

The climax is another gulch of missed opportunities. An elaborate sequence with drug-laced chicken feed, which could have been mined for clever humor, ends up petering out with minimal impact. The undervaluation of such setups is symptomatic of a broader misfire within the film: a dish with good ingredients that ends up severely undercooked.

Ultimately, “Wild Wild Punjab” is a letdown for viewers looking for a genuine buddy comedy rooted in Punjabi culture, falling short of its wild ambition. The film streaming on Netflix now, hoping to offer laughter, but one might instead find themselves yearning for better-composed narratives, sharper humor, and a tad more respect toward the richness of the subject it aims to satirize.