August 31, 2006

Gandhi meets gangster in Bollywood comedy sequel

By Krittivas Mukherjee

MUMBAI (Reuters) - A rare Bollywood sequel to a blockbuster
comedy about a lovable thug opens on Friday, reviving the
pranks of the gangster who must dodge barbs from independence
icon Mahatma Gandhi this time to win his ladylove.

One of the most-eagerly awaited films of the year, "Lage
Raho Munnabhai" (Carry on Munnabhai), is the sequel to the 2003
superhit "Munnabhai MBBS," the story of a Mumbai mobster who
pretends to be a doctor and for whom laughter is the only

In "Lage Raho" Bollywood action hero Sanjay Dutt is recast
as "Munnabhai," who spends his days by the radio because he is
in love with one of the presenters.

The beautiful radio jockey is also smitten by Munnabhai's
rustic charm, but there is a small problem: she thinks the
gangster is a history professor.

As Munnabhai, the illiterate, foul-mouthed goon, tries to
sort out the problem, he comes face to face with a figure from
history -- Indian independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi.

The two wrestle over their philosophies while the mobster
tries to woo his love.

The rib-tickling conversations between Munna and his loyal
sidekick in the first film -- in typical Mumbai underworld
lingo -- became hugely popular in India as well as neighboring
Pakistan, where Indian films are banned but pirated videos are
easily available.

"Munnabhai MBBS" is being made into a Hollywood film called
"Gangsta MD" starring Chris Tucker.

Sequels, more so of comedy films, are rare in Bollywood
which churns out hundreds of stereotyped romances and revenge
sagas every year, most of which sink without a trace at the box

But Bollywood analysts feel "Lage Raho" seemed to have a
success formula at hand.

"The advance bookings have been phenomenal and cinema halls
have been inundated with inquiries for block bookings," film
industry analyst Taran Adarsh said.

Industry officials say the sequel could also ride a
sympathy wave for Dutt, 47, who is one of 123 accused in the
1993 serial bombings in Mumbai that killed 257 people.

A Mumbai court is due to deliver its judgment on September
12 in the case in which Dutt -- popular for playing gangster
and the anti-hero -- is accused of conspiring with the bombers,
illegally possessing arms and trying to destroy evidence.

Dutt, the son of respected actor-turned-politician Sunil
Dutt who died last year, has said he is innocent.