While not the most horrendous new release I've happened to catch in 2010, Action Replayy felt so unexceptional. For starters, why bother setting your film in 1975 if you're not going to do anything fun with that specific context (or even make sure the composer writes music that sounds anything like 1975 music for the characters in that time period to perform, but the music is the least of our worries, so whatever)? Yeah yeah, Mala (Aishwarya) has a pretty polka-dot chiffon sari, and Kishen (Akshay) wears some psychedelic button-down shirts, and Kundanlal (Rannvijay Singh) has a pretty good Ranjeet look, but there's little 70s about this film that matters at all or even seemed to be done with much thought or purpose. So irrelevant is the context, apparently, that no one comments on time-traveling Bunty (a curiously coiffed Aditya Roy Kapoor - and please, somebody tell me he's someone's nephew?)'s very 2010 hipster clothes (he sure crammed a lot of graphic t-shirts into that backpack, including one with Yoda, who didn't exist yet) or constant referencing of now-famous names that they don't know. And when Kishen finally asks Bunty why he always calls him "dad," he's somehow satisfied with the reply "You'll find out in 30 years" and wants no further explanation. What?
What is central is the love story - you know, the one that Bunty bothers to go back in time to shore up instead of trying to fix it in the present, as Baradwaj Rangan very sensibly suggested - but it didn't work for me either. The idea seems to be that confident, energetic, rude Mala, called a goonda by her friends, must be turned seedhi-saadhi while mild-mannered, home-oriented Kishen must become a swaggering jerk for them to fall in love thoroughly enough to sustain their marriage 33 years later. It didn't play out quite as starkly as that, but that seems to be the tack Bunty takes for most of his interfering. Don't get me wrong - I love to meddle, but this particular set of personality makeovers gets a big raspberry from me. There's a big difference between rude and meek - which of course Mala largely is by the end, relying on Kishen to stand up to her bossy mother (Kiron Kher underused in her usual crazy Maa thing)'s objections to their union. Fortunately Kishen retains his good-heartedness, though I didn't catch any kind of conversation about why he felt uncomfortable pretending to be a jackass as a technique for making someone fall in love with him. The set-up reminded me a little of Jab Jab Phool Khile where Nanda's character is so completely unlikable that you can't not want her to change, yet her submission and personality 180 in the end still feel like a beatdown of the concept of a confident, self-driven woman. Action Replayy isn't nearly as hateful as that, but it seemed to me that Mala did a lot more of the changing than Kishen did. In the initial iteration of their "now" relationship, Mala is also more annoying than Kishen, a shopaholic mistaking acquisition for substance who fusses at her husband for not being home enough because he's away working hard at his dream of a successful, stylish restaurant. She is neglected and has not figured out how to make a meaningful life for herself while he is out accomplishing something. Great.
That said, I very much liked the final version of Kishen and Mala's relationship, both in the flashback and in present day, probably even more in the latter because they were such a cute, sparkly "mature" couple. While watching the first two thirds, though, I couldn't decide if Aishwarya was giving the performance of a lifetime by making original Mala so very unpleasant and in need of learning a thing or two about being a nice human being...or if she truly forgot how to act. Regular readers know I have an inexplicable soft spot for Aishwarya and will forgive her almost anything, but this performance and this character (the latter not being her fault, of course, except in the choosing) were very trying. She's the weakest link, performance-wise, though Bunty's girlfriend Tanya, whose real name I am not going to bother to learn, would have given her a run for her money if she'd been on screen more. I'm beginning to like Akshay Kumar in these dweeby roles; there's something interesting and entertaining, if not fully compelling, about watching him use his body and face so differently to create a humble, soft man when he can also so easily portray the thuggish moron from Tashan (also a fun performance).
Overall there wasn't enough in here I liked to say much good about it. Again, not egregiously awful, but Action Replayy has nothing to recommend it, and I don't have any sense of careful writing and adapting or of any reason this film should have been made. For every bit of fun, like a 70s-appropriate giant chandelier or stuffed tiger or budget-grandeur nightclub complete with Helen-ish outfit, there's a fart joke or "HUH?"-inducing brownface (I think this was an attempt at age makeup Rajpal Yadav, Rannvijay, and Akshay?). Bas. Spend your time on Om Shanti Om or Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, that other famous instance of a child meddling in a parent's romance, instead.