Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive is an attempted spoof on Hindi movies, militant outfits, and the US of A’s war on terror.
It loops from one gag to another without hitting the right buttons often enough.
The terrorists “somewhere in Pakistan” participate in a sporting Olympiad that includes events like bomb relay and landmine jump.
In faraway US, the President frets over his chances of winning a second term in office.
And in Mumbai, two young aspirants struggle for a foothold on the fringes of the movie industry.
To be fair, a few of the performances are lively, if not worthy of unstinted applause. It is the film’s slapdash storyline that is the problem.
A wannabe filmmaker Sharma (Manish Paul) flees the prospect of spending the rest of his life frying jalebis in his father’s Old Delhi eatery.
The young man ends up in Mumbai looking for a break in Bollywood.
In the city of dreams, he runs into a bumbling folk singer Paddi Singh (Pradhuman Singh). The latter’s face is his fortune – he is an Osama Bin Laden lookalike.
As the two men join forces with the intention of making a film on the al-Qaeda supremo. They even find a producer to bankroll their project.
But the duo’s plans go for a toss when Osama is taken out in a US attack on his Abbottabad hideout.
Cut to the White House war room. The President (played by Barack Obama impersonator Iman Crosson) is up for re-election and he needs concrete proof that Osama is indeed dead.
The President’s trusted aide David Chaddha (Sikander Kher), who alternates between a faux Yankee accent and Punjab-laced Hindi, hires the duo to make a video with Paddi standing in for Osama.
But hang on, there’s more. A group of jihadists across the border, led by a man named Khaleeli (Piyush Mishra), get to Sharma and Paddi first.
These guys are desperate to prove to the world that Osama isn’t dead and, therefore, need a film to be made to establish that their leader is alive and kicking.
The cat-and-mouse games that the American agent plays with the terrorists and the Hollywood-obsessed Bollywood guys careen out of control and cease to be funny even before the film has fully warmed up.
The lead actor of Tere Bin Laden, Ali Zafar, plays a substantial cameo that includes a flashy item number in praise of his six pack abs.
But he is quickly forgotten as Manish Paul and Pardhuman Singh (who is also the film’s dialogue writer) plunge into a mad race to save themselves and get their careers off the ground.
Amid the melee, Sikander Kher makes the greatest impression with his double act, occasionally pulling off the Jim Carrey imitation.
Piyush Mishra, saddled with an ill-defined role, isn’t given enough situations and punchlines to make his presence felt.
Several other actors from the original film – Sugandha Garg, Rahul Singh and Chirag Vohra – get a look-in as well. But that is about it.
The material at their disposal this time around simply does not have the potential to be turned into something that could be consistently watchable.
Absurdist comedies are always difficult to pull off because the line between the droll and the dreary is often dangerously thin.
Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive, is seldom on the right side of that line.
For want of the inspired writing that launched the franchise, it rests mostly on deadwood ideas that are as insubstantial as they are prone to rapid disintegration.
Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive is best avoided unless a bunch of characters running around in circles is one’s idea of entertainment.