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‘Murder Mubarak’ review: No killer, all filler

This murder mystery set in a posh Delhi club is a loud, garish misfire

Pankaj Tripathi and Karisma Kapoor in 'Murder Mubarak'
Pankaj Tripathi and Karisma Kapoor in 'Murder Mubarak'

For about a decade and a half after the release of Khosla Ka Ghosla in 2006, we made Delhi films well. After decades of neglect and cliche, there were all these different accents, experiences, subcultures… Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Dev.D, Band Baaja Baaraat, Dilli-6, Piku, Titli, Queen. Recently, though, it feels like we’re back to seeing the city through a Mumbai gaze, to watching Punjabi aunties coo at their labradoodles and angry Jats question your relations with your sister.

Even if you’re trying to skewer something, it’s stronger if it comes from a place of affection. But Murder Mubarak has no fondness for Delhi, and it shows in the kind of ugly caricatures it offers. At the elite Royal Delhi Club, trainer Leo (Aashim Gulati) is found dead, his weights apparently slipping from his grip and crushing him. ACP Bhavani (Pankaj Tripathi), assigned the case days before he leaves for Lucknow to join his wife, immediately declares it a murder (they’d eat up Bhavani’s relaxed, grandiloquent speaking style in Lucknow).  

There’s a large list of well-heeled suspects: minor royalty Rannvijay (Sanjay Kapoor); Shehnaz (Karisma Kapoor), a former movie star now doing horror schlock; garrulous aunties Cookie (Dimple Kapadia) and Roshni (Tisca Chopra); Roshni’s druggie son Yash (Suhail Nayyar); rich kid Bambi (Sara Ali Khan) and her lawyer friend, the one outsider, Akash (Vijay Varma). It turns out Leo was blackmailing nearly everyone, so there’s plenty of motive to go around. In his gentle way, Bhavani starts pulling the rug out from under everyone’s feet. 

This ensemble has potential for inspired silliness but director Homi Adajania can’t corral them effectively. Sanjay Kapoor is usually one of the funnier bit players in Hindi film, but here he’s just loud and one-note—and the same goes for Kapadia. Khan and Varma get a love story to play (they're longtime friends but she got married, now her husband is dead but he's seeing someone); though it's a large part of the film—long at 142 minutes—it’s not particularly involving. I like the way Tripathi goes about playing the inspector, pontificating like a Hindi professor, gently requesting where most detectives would demand. But this performance suffers because the flamboyant ones aren’t pitched right—I’d compare it unfavourably to Neeyat, not that much better a murder mystery but with a wittier cast of moneyed despicables.    

Besides a handful of other screenplays, Gazal Dhaliwal and Suprotim Sengupta have a sparkling comedy each under their respective belts: Qarib Qarib Single in the former’s case, Meri Pyaari Bindu in the latter’s. Their source material here is promising: Anuja Chauhan’s satirical murder mystery Club You To Death. But something goes wrong in Murder Mubarak, which struggles to offer a plausible whodunit and has neither the language nor the incisiveness to skewer Delhi high society in ways we haven’t seen before. 

There must be someone high up at Maddock Films who thinks the average viewer is a rube who won’t understand a joke unless it’s accompanied by a musical cue that shouts ‘JOKE!’. Hindi comedies tend to lean heavily on their scores anyway, but Maddock is a serial offender. I’d mentioned Dasvi’s brass farts in my review, and my notes for Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya have ‘score awful’ underlined violently. And now there’s Murder Mubarak, whose misfiring gags have accompanying bleeps and honks and trills. Every joke fails twice. 

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