Lottery Fever

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After making significant gains in Chennai-based Telugu and Malayalam films, Priyadarshan made a huge all-Indian splash with the marvelous multilingual entry Kalapaani (1996) and later Virasat (1997). Since then he has successfully transitioned into making Hindi comedies (Hera Pheri, Hungama, Hulchul). With the laugh-out-loud Malamaal Weekly, Priyadarshan comes up with an ensemble cast, great production values, and his best comedy to date.

Even though Malamaal is a remake of the off-kilter 1998 British comedy Waking Ned Devine, Priyadarshan gives the story a fresh perspective. A rural hamlet peopled by proverbial dim-wits finds itself home to the mega-winner of the titular lottery. The local lottery seller Lilaram (Rawal) inadvertently puts into play a conspiracy with the locals to keep the knowledge of the real winner’s untimely demise a secret just long enough for the village to collect the loot, … er, the lottery, and share the proceeds.

Central to this extended charade is the interplay between Rawal’s village know-it-all and Puri’s ill-tempered peasant who won’t let his daughter (Sen) marry the local lover-boy (Deshmukh). The buck-toothed instigator Lilaram becomes the unwitting driver, mouthpiece, and voice of the moral dilemma the villagers stumble into. Paired opposite an on-target Puri, Rawal trades non-stop one-line zingers with the veteran actor, boosting his own stature as a character actor extraordinaire.

With a South-Indian crew, the director is even more at ease on his home turf. One Entertainment’s first-rate DVD transfer throws in an insightful making-of short and interviews with the principals. With a style most reminiscent of his hit film Virasat, Priyadarshan elevates comical artistry to a not-to-be missed new high. Enjoy!

—Aniruddh Chawda

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