Never mind this nuclear-rivals business; to give you an idea of the current state of play between India and Pakistan, news recently broke that a pigeon spotted flying from Pakistan to an Indian border town has been taken into custody over fears of espionage. This is perhaps part of the problem faced by Welcome 2 Karachi, a film in which two sweet-natured but idiotic Indians (Arshad Warsi and Jackky Bhagnani) find themselves caught in a cyclone that sweeps them on to the Karachi waterside. Nothing that transpires in the subsequent two hours of slapstick comedy chronicling their attempts at making it back home rivals that pigeon in terms of absurdity.
This is not to say they don’t give absurdity their best shot. The duo find themselves unwittingly blowing up Taliban camps, being mistaken for spies by the CIA, appropriated as Pakistani heroes by a corrupt minister (Danish Hussain, who’s just fantastic and injects a jolt of energy into all his scenes) and nearly lynched by a crowd for supporting India in a cricket match.
It’s so entirely clear that realism is in no way being strived for that one would really have to be terribly thin-skinned to take offence at the clichéd view of Pakistan on show here – at any rate it’s not half as far-fetched as vision of the country offered by the likes of Homeland. More than anything else, Welcome 2 Karachi reminded me of 80s comedies involving bumbling Americans on Soviet terrain, such as John Landis’s Spies Like Us. But unlike Spies Like Us, Welcome 2 Karachi sprints from joke to joke in such a frenzy that it fails to achieve anything resembling a satisfactory narrative arc.
While farce is the only properly appropriate way to examine Indo-Pak relations, this one, for all its good intentions, is let down by a script that fails its most basic requirement: of making one laugh. It’s a shame because Warsi turns in a perfectly good performance (Bhagnani, on the other hand, makes one long for Karachi to live up to its notoriety and devour him whole). With its heart in the right place, Welcome 2 Karachi softpedals the viciousness so often to be seen in both countries’ portrayal of the other. The film appears to be of the opinion that politicians may be evil but people are just people and neighbours ought to be there for each other. Would that this were enough to render it watchable