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PHIR HERA PHERI. Director: Neeraj Vora. Players: Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty, Paresh Rawal, Bipasha Basu, Rimi Sen. Music: Himesh Reshamiyya. Theatrical release.

In a box-office season ruled by repeat offenders, Phir Hera Pheri offers a commendable comeback. Vora, who wrote (but did not direct) the original 2000 entry Hera Pheri has a few comic tricks up his sleeve. Unafraid to reach into the same bag of tricks again, he succeeds in packaging a continuing saga about three city fools who didn’t learn their lessons the first time around.

The same trio from the original story—Kumar, Shetty and Rawal—are as good together as Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin were in their heyday. Still wagging
their tails at the same lame get-rich-quick schemes, the daring Raju (Kumar), the near-sighted buffoon Baburao (Rawal), and the slightly detached Shyam (Shetty) find themselves embroiled in an extended joke that involves several competing gangsters caught in a turf war, a cache of stolen diamonds, and a couple of beautiful women (Bipasha Basu, Rimi Sen). Before this mess can be un-knotted—“sorted out” would be overstating it as nothing seems to get completely cleared up ever—they must undergo a hilarious riches-to-rags odyssey and then possibly, just possibly, back to riches again.

Vora’s carefree style banks on (and get kudos for) great chemistry between the three would-be shysters. While the female characters have precious little to do, it’s Rawal who nearly steals the show. His dim-witted simpleton is so on target. Continuing this very un-PC method for extracting laughs, one sub-plot involves yet another gangster (Sharat Saxena) whose lisping becomes fodder for many a tongue-in-cheeks innuendos. Take all this at its shallow face value and go along for the ride. If only more sequels could be this funny.

Aniruddh C.

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.