The core of Welcome 2 Karachi is a solid heist thriller, delving uncannily into international conspiracies, cross-border terrorism, intelligence teams, country-specific embassies and the navy. It’s the attempt to sell it as a low-key dark-comedy that makes things interesting. However, the writing isn’t as witty from what we saw in a Tere Bin Laden. There’s a difference in using one’s resources sparingly and rather, bringing it to play almost every frame, just because they have the wile.
The narrative of the film makes us feel as if everything’s so casual and easy. Understandably, it’s staged in an escapist fashion and with two characters played by Arshad Warsi and Jacky Bhagnani, there’s an unintended accomplishment. The film too, on that front, never over-estimates its intelligence and is moderately successful in what it wants to put across.
Welcome 2 Karachi hardly ever elevates its protagonists. They consistently feel weak, are wacky in their own ways and end up doing something so outrageous that they smile at their luck for once and wince for their ill-fortune, the other instant. As two Indians caught up in Pakistan, their intentions are simple. They want to go back home. The tone of the humour in pursuit of the same is surprisingly consistent, but the makers end up being under-achievers.
The contexts they pick up are fragile. There’s an occasional laugh, when Kedar, in an attempt to match up to his Urdu-speaking counterpart, references a Prithviraj Kapoor dialogue from Mughal-E-Azam. The result is alright, but we always begin wondering if another in place of a Jacky Bhagnani could have brought more fire into his eyes in such moments.
Meanwhile, in another instance, Shammi, accidentally dresses up like a doctor and when he’s asked to perform a delivery, he blows up a vacuum cleaner. When he’s asked on how did he pull it off, he thanks Raju Hirani’s apparent stroke of genius in 3 Idiots. They later try stealing a pizza and end up at a don’s house. A country is named synonymous to violence. There’s a shootout at the embassy. If it’s an India-Pakistan conflict, we’re obviously talking cricket and this gives us the most hilarious moment of the film, where one of the two Indian-nationals, in a fit of rage, is oblivious to his living in Pakistan and shudders in a series of abuses.
Then, there’s a yawny ‘faqr’ joke coming in and pronounce it with the needed gaps, you’ll know what we are talking about. Later, when the two get names such as ‘Ittefaq’ and ‘Watdefaq’, we realise it’s a dangerous territory that the makers are stepping in. Amidst all this, there are a series of American conspiracies, nearly mirroring reality, such as the one taking the credit of killing an international terrorist. There’s a mention of Gujarat, to highlight a similar issue. However, in some moments, the makers do look at the wider picture. When the two are mistaken of crossing the border, we see Shammi uttering, ‘Borders chote hai par differences bade’ and following it up with ‘Kameene dono deshon mein hote hai.’ in a Punjabi Dhaba that they only realise later, is in Pakistan.
The problem though is the ambiguity surrounding the takeaways from this. There are loose statements and universal adages at the same time. Luckily for the film’s favour, the better messages are pumped into the climax. The best of humour is packaged here too, especially with the characters getting past the customs authorities. These would have more fluid with better actors and a director, surer of his craft. The comedy appeals at places, especially the underplaying nature of it, but it’s just on the surface-level. Some more seriousness, better dialogue and we would have stared at a laugh riot with a purpose. At least, we come out half-happy of the storyteller’s intention to put formulae aside and drive some proper thought.