Abhimanyu Singh, Akshay Kumar, comedy, Diana Penty, Emraan Hashmi, India, Kusha Kapila, Mahesh Thakur, Meghna Malik, movies, Neev Ahuja, Nushrratt Bharuccha, Raj Mehta, reviews, Selfiee, Sushil Bonthiyal
March 1, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Raj Mehta
Hindi with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Bhopal, India, the comedy film “Selfiee” (a remake of the 2019 Malayalam-language movie “Driving Licence”) features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A motor vehicle inspector and his 10-year-old son are avid fans of a movie star, but the inspector’s admiration for this celebrity turns to disillusionment and hatred after the two men end up in a bitter public feud.
Culture Audience: “Selfiee” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and the “Driving Licence” movie, but this remake is a long-winded letdown that lacks the charm of the original movie.
For a comedy that’s nearly two-and-a-half hours, “Selfiee” takes way too long to have nothing interesting to say. Emraan Hashmi puts in a good effort to make his character believable. The other cast members just exist in a dull movie with silly gimmicks. “Selfiee” is a remake of the 2019 Malayalam-language movie “Driving Licence,” which is far superior to “Selfiee” in every way.
Directed by Raj Mehta and written by Rishabh Sharma, “Selfiee” takes place primarily in Bhopal, India. It’s where motor vehicle inspector Om Prakash Aggarwal (played by Hashmi), who is called Prakash, lives and works. Prakash and his 10-year-old son Gabbu (played by Neev Ahuja) are avid fans of movie star Vijay Kumar (played by Akshay Kumar), a swaggering celebrity who has millions of admirers. Prakash’s wife Minty Aggarwal (played by Nushrratt Bharuccha) thinks that the fan worship that Prakash and Gabbu have for Vijay is foolish and a waste of time. Minty prefers another movie star named Suraj Diwan (played by Abhimanyu Singh), who started out in the movie business around the same time as Vijay.
Vijay and Suraj used to be roommates before they were famous. However, after becoming celebrities, the careers of Vijay and Suraj went in completely opposite directions. Vijay’s career has soared to the greatest of heights, while Suraj’s career has declined to the point where he is now a has-been who’s doing low-quality movies because he needs the money. Suraj, who is very jealous of his rival Vijay, consults with a psychic named Tara (played by Kusha Kapila) for a tarot card reading to see if his luck or Vijay’s luck will change. Tara tells Suraj that the tarot cards predict that Vijay will have bad luck soon.
It just so happens that Vijay has arrived in Bhopal with great fanfare, because he’s filming scenes for his next movie in Bhopal. These are the final scenes to be filmed for his movie. When Prakash and Gabbu find out that Vijay will be in Bhopal, they rush to the area where Vijay’s helicopter is landing. Several members of the media are also there.
Among a crowd of thousands of cheering and excited fans, Prakash and Gabbu desperately try to get Vijay’s attention as Vijay’s car drives by them. The dream of this father and son is to meet Vijay and get a selfie photo taken with this movie star. Of course, Prakash and Gabbu are just one of numerous fans in the crowd who want the same thing. Vijay is too far away for him to notice Prakash and Gabbu.
When Vijay arrives in Bhopal, he is warmly greeted by Vimla Tiwari (played by Meghna Malik), a somewhat flaky employee who has been hired to be Vijay’s assistant during his stay in Bhopal. Her job is to get Vijay whatever he wants and make sure that his life runs as smoothly as possible while he’s in the city. Vijay is an automobile enthusiast who makes several action movies where he has to race cars and do a lot of other driving.
Vijay has recently found out that his driver’s license has been expired for months, and he’s annoyed that the license renewal wasn’t taken care of by someone who works for him. Vimla has been tasked to quietly get the license renewed in Bhopal without Vijay having to take the required license renewal tests. Vimla goes to the regional transport office where Prakash works, and he happens to be the inspector on duty who takes this request.
Normally, Prakash is an ethical inspector who wouldn’t break the rules. But when he finds out that this special treatment would be a personal favor to Vijay, Prakash agrees to “bend the rules” for Vijay, on the condition that Vijay personally visit the office so that Prakash and Gabbu can meet Vijay and get a selfie photo with him. Vimla says she’ll see what she can do about this request, but she won’t make any guarantees.
Vimla goes to Vijay with this request. Vijay and his sycophantic personal assistant Naveen (played by Mahesh Thakur) look up Prakash on social media and see that he is a die-hard fan of Vijay. When Vijay sees that Prakash is a loyal admirer, Vijay figures that this trip to the regional transport office will go smoothly, because he’ll be easily able to convince Prakash to do what Vijay wants Prakash to do in getting the driver’s license renewed.
Vijay show up at the regional transport office, but he’s surprised and outraged to see that this visit won’t be private after all. His arrival was leaked in advance to the media, which quickly spread the news. By the time that Vijay gets to the office, it’s a chaotic scene with thousands of fans, as well as members of the media, gathered in the hope of seeing Vijay.
To make matters worse, Prakash had put up a banner in the office corridor to welcome Vijay, who sees this banner and automatically assumes it was Prakash who leaked the information about Vijay’s visit. Prakash, Gabbu and several of the office employees are eagerly waiting in a room for Vijay to arrive. But instead of it being a positive experience for everyone, the situation quickly turns into an ugly mess.
Vijay storms into the office and yells at Prakash for telling the media about Vijay’s visit. Vijay calls Prakash an “opportunist” who just wants to use this meeting to become famous. Prakash wanted to give Vijay a wrapped gift, but Vijay takes the gift and throws it angrily on the floor. It’s a humiliating experience for Prakash, who is visibily embarrassed, emotionally hurt and shocked. The rejection makes Prakash and Gabbu tearful and upset.
Meanwhile, the media and other people find out that Vijay had gone to the office to try to renew his driver’s license without taking the required tests. Several people in the media express outrage that Vijay was expecting special treatment. Prakash sees all the negative publicity that Vijay is getting and uses it as an opportunity to get revenge on Vijay. Prakash begins giving media interviews saying that Vijay tried to get Prakash to break the rules for Vijay, but Prakash lies to the media and says that he refused.
Prakash is made to look like the hero in the media’s coverage of this story, while Vijay is made to look like the villain. Several people in the media and the general public also call Vijay a hypocrite because he had been starring in a public service campaign about road safety while he had secretly been driving for months without a valid driver’s license. An incensed Vijay decides to get revenge on Prakash. And so begins a feud between the two men that escalates to ridiculous proportions.
There are some complications to Vijay’s revenge plot. First, he’s under a lot of pressure to finish this movie on time and without going over the movie’s budget. The movie’s producer Sunil Awasthi (played by Sushil Bonthiyal) begs Vijay to get his driver’s license renewed so that the movie can be finished. The final scenes to be filmed for the movie require that Vijay do a lot of driving. Sunil tells Vijay that if the movie isn’t finished on time, the movie will miss its target release date, and Sunil will lose his entire investment in the film.
Second, Vijay and his glamorous wife Naina (played by Diana Penty), who frequently travels with him, are expecting a baby (their first child) via a surrogate, who is in New York City. Vijay and Naina have kept this information very private. Only a few people in their inner circle know. The baby was due the following month. However, certain things happen that cause Vijay and Naina to want to go to New York City during the dates that Vijay is supposed to finish filming his movie.
Third, some hoodlums attack Prakash and his family by throwing rocks through the windows of the family’s house. Gabbu gets a head injury in the attack and is rushed to a hospital for treatment. (This violent incident is shown in the movie’s trailer.) The crime occurred shortly after Vijay and Prakash had an argument over the phone. Prakash assumes that Vijay ordered the attack, so Prakash holds a press conference to publicly accuse Vijay of being the mastermind.
“Selfiee” could have had many clever things to say about the roles that the media and celebrity worship play in people’s perceptions of public figures. However, the movie just dumbs everything down to make it into a bombastic and not-very-believable dispute between two very stubborn and immature people. Vijay comes across a smug and egotistical bully who is much worse than Prakash, but Prakash was the one who made this feud public by lying to the media about the circumstances over Vijay’s driver license renewal.
“Selfiee” has some references to how the media, for better or worse, can shape a celebrity’s public image. However, the movie would have had more substance and been more insightful if it also included some awareness of how Prakash and Vijay were both being used by the media, which fanned the flames of this feud. “Selfiee” ignores the bigger picture of the co-dependent relationship between celebrity worship and media coverage. Instead, “Selfiee” over-relies on a lot of lazy and unimaginative slapstick comedy.
The performances in “Selfiee” are on par with the movie’s uneven screenplay and direction, which are frequently very maudlin and sometimes downright terrible. Kumar doesn’t do anything in the movie that’s very special in playing movie star Vijay, while Hashmi gives a more nuanced performance in depicting Prakash as a “regular guy” who gets caught up in something that he did not expect. The last 15 minutes of the film are the absolute worst, turning what could have been a memorable satire into a mush of cloying garbage.
Star Studios released “Selfiee” in select U.S. cinemas on February 24, 2023.