The ill-fitting elements play like mismatching jigsaw pieces.

A small-town schlemiel seeks his fortune from construction contracts but just embarrasses his family in strained Bollywood outing “Khatta meetha.” Prolific director Priyadarshan, who hit it big with last year’s Irrfan Khan starrer “Billu Barber,” here offers a remake of his own 1988 Malayalam film “Vellanakalude naadu,” this time with regular collaborator Akshay Kumar as the gormless lead. In the masala tradition, the helmer throws in a bit of everything, from broad comedy to high drama, but the ill-fitting elements play like mismatching jigsaw pieces. Indian B.O. fell far short of expectations for a Kumar vehicle.

In a protracted opening sequence that hints at the overplayed comedy to come, money-hungry contractor Sichan Tichkule (Kumar) prays to a Hindu deity for a road-paving assignment that will make him the social equal of his successful but corrupt brothers. Yarn plays best when Kumar lunges for lowbrow laughs and slapstick antics like runaway steamrollers creating havoc, as opposed to the superfluous detours into everything from dopey romance to murder and gang rape. Thesping is strictly one-note; helming has an uncoordinated, ramshackle air. Catchy end-credits song “Bullshit” reps a fitting epitaph.

Khatta meetha

India

Production

A Hari Om Entertainment Co., Shree Ashtavinayak Cinevision (in India)/Eros Intl. (international) release of a Hari Om Entertainment Co. presentation in association with Shree Ashtavinayak Cinevision of a Cape of Good Films production. (International sales: Odyssey Corp., Chennai, India.) Produced by Akshay Kumar. Executive producer, G.P. Vijay Kumar. Directed, written by Priyadarshan.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Manikandan; editor, Arun Kumar; music, Pritam Chakraborty; production designer, Sabu Cyril. Reviewed at Cinema 5 Hoyts, Burwood, Sydney, July 25, 2010. Running time: 155 MIN. (I: 84 MIN., II: 71 MIN.)

With

Akshay Kumar, Trisha Krishnan, Makrand Deshpande, Kainaat Arora. (Hindi dialogue)
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