With a cast list comprising Bollywood comic giants old and new, and comedy director Priyadarshan at the helm, you'd think Malamaal Weekly might just be the laugh fest you'd hoped for. Sadly not. While there are well-executed comic capers aplenty in this story of villagers who win the lottery, the humour is at best archaic, lacking the kind of edge that contemporary Indian cinema boasts in abundance and discerning audiences increasingly expect.
For the inhabitants of Laholi, life is a daily struggle to make ends meets while avoiding the snare of moneylender Karamkali (Sudha Chandran). The only literate villager among them, Lilaram (Paresh Rawal) earns a meagre income selling tickets for the Malamaal Weekly lottery. So when the numbers come up for Anthony, the village drunkard, Lilaram anticipates a healthy commission. But, finding Anthony dead in his chair, ticket in hand, Lilaram and his fellow villagers see an opportunity to change their fortunes in a chaotic plot to claim the cash and share the spoils.
Directly inspired by the 1998 British film Waking Ned, Priyadarshan may well have thought he'd hit on a winner here. But Malamaal Weekly demonstrates precisely just how much can be lost in translation: in this case humour.
Paresh Rawal and Om Puri both deliver natural, albeit routine, performances but the presence of old timers Asrani and Shakti Kapoor is strangely disconcerting, appearing to have been dredged up from a bygone era. In the face of a weak script though, there's little any of the cast can do to salvage a film that never comes close to hitting the jackpot.
In Hindi with English subtitles.