After a long time, Akshay Kumar is finally portraying a role suited to both his talent and his star power in Raj Mehta’s Selfiee. The film, a remake of the Malayalam release Driving Licence, pits two unlikely adversaries against each other.
Akshay Kumar plays the role of superstar Vijay Kumar, whose repertoire consists of some of the actor’s real-life successes.
As Vijay, the actor returns to his roots as an action-comedy star with brilliant comic timing.
He is positioned as a celebrity who draws even bigger crowds than some Grammy award-winning singers, in a scene that drew murmurs of “Mannat” from the crowd.
However, this star soon finds himself in a dilemma - he must expedite the process of getting a driving license to shoot a climax scene in Bhopal before he leaves the country with his wife (Diana Penty).
This brings us to the other protagonist in the story (or are they both antagonists?) - Om Prakash, played with brilliant sincerity and charm by Emraan Hashmi. Om Prakash is a sub-inspector at the Bhopal RTO and also Vijay’s die-hard fan.
While the film borrows its source material from the Malayalam original, a viewer might also find thematic similarities to An Action Hero and Fan.
However, at some point it becomes clear that this film, unlike the original, has its scales weighed in the star’s favour - perhaps out of necessity in these times where hashtags, especially ones like ‘Boycott Bollywood’, spread like wildfire.
Misunderstandings and flaring egos result in a game of wits and tempers between a star and his fan. The opportunity to use this setting for commentary on the parasocial relationship between fans and stars, the dark side of fame and fan worship, the impermanence of adulation, and more is lost.
Selfiee doesn't attempt to satirise the vilification of stars and the fickle nature of social media and instead just points it out. In a pre-An Action Hero time, it might have worked but as things stand, you're left looking for more.
That is not to say that the film isn’t humorous - several of the jokes and comedic moments in Selfiee land perfectly.
Amid all the chaos is a third angle of an actor Suraj Diwan (Abhimanyu Singh) whose career trajectory followed that of Vijay’s (and even surpassed it once) but the only offers he gets now are for “embarrassing” ads and movies like Pitaji, I Love You. His arc also introduces Kusha Kapila as a tarot reader.
Kusha is pleasantly surprising and hilarious in her role, taking what she is given in the script and elevating it with the persona she has so meticulously created online over the years. Another actor worthy of praise, and perhaps a meatier role, is Nushrratt Bharuccha. As Om’s wife Mindy, she is endearing.
Speaking of humour, Meghna Malik as a corporator who uses ‘selfies’ with Vijay Kumar for her time in the limelight, is extremely underutilised but every time she is on screen, the film is fun.
At the end of the day, too many slow-motion shots and what ends up being a medley of fragile male egos drags the film to a runtime that almost makes the audience impatient. Beyond the two protagonists, barely any other character gets enough substance to be noticeable.
Selfiee finds its groove and loses it, multiple times during the course of the film and that, perhaps, is its biggest flaw.