Cross-border love stories raise eyebrows. Always. Especially when it involves India and Pakistan. Recall Raj Kapoor's dream project HENNA [1991; directed by his son Randhir Kapoor], J.P. Dutta's REFUGEE , Anil Sharma's GADAR , Yash Chopra's VEER-ZAARA … more recently, Kabir Khan's EK THA TIGER  centred around an Indian spy falling in love with a Pakistani spy. While the above-named movies reconstructed the ordeal faced by the lovers on account of cross-border romance, Eshvar Nivas' TOTAL SIYAPAA takes a different route altogether. The director peppers the plot with humor and amusing episodes while depicting the chaos that engulf the lives of the much-in-love couple [Pakistani boy, Indian girl].
First things first! TOTAL SIYAPAA is based on ONLY HUMAN [SERES QUERIDOS], a Spanish film. The nationalities have been changed [to make it more relatable], while the premise has been modified [albeit slightly] to suit the Indian sensibilities. Also, unlike the above-mentioned Hindi films, this one's set in London. So, there! The question is, does the cross-border romance strike a chord? Or does the storyteller miss the opportunity to drive home a point?
Neeraj Pandey, one of the producers of TOTAL SIYAPAA, as well as Eshvar Nivas, the director of the film, are synonymous with serious films that have an undercurrent of tension [although Eshvar has attempted some light entertainers in the past]. The emphasis is to narrate a love story involving an Indian and Pakistani and the script offers ample scope to pack in crazy, absurd and bizarre situations to keep you in splits, but the screenplay doesn't milk the concept to the optimum.
While the promos of the film prepare you for a laugh-riot, what unfurls on screen doesn't keep you in splits through and through. Initially, yes, the humor works, especially when Ali meets his prospective mother-in-law Kirron Kher, but thereafter, a few sporadic instances apart, several episodes fall flat. Instances: The track involving the English cop fails to evoke laughter… The entire track involving Yami's hyper brother and the Pakistani neighbour doesn't work… The kanjoos bro-in-law's sequences are far from amusing. On the brighter side, the sequences involving Ali and Kirron Kher are hilarious. Additionally, the sequence involving Anupam Kher and the call girl, though corny, makes you laugh. However, what could've been a funny take on cross-border romance remains, at best, an ordinary fare.
Since Neeraj Pandey is credited with adapting the Spanish film, you expect him to deliver a spirited tale replete with laugh-inducing situations, eccentric characters and unfortunate coincidences, but the writing appeals intermittently. It would've been great to see the peripheral characters [father, brother, sister, bro-in-law, grandpa] contribute to the wacky goings-on, but the screenplay limits their growth. The curse of the second half, which plagues most Hindi films, looms large here too. There's not much scope for director Eshvar Nivas in such a scenario, although he handles a couple of sequences with poise. The soundtrack [Ali Zafar holds the additional responsibility of scoring the music] is decent. 'Palat Meri Jaan' and 'Nahi Maloom' are catchy compositions.
TOTAL SIYAPAA would've tottered completely had the makers cast names with no flair for comedy. Ali Zafar has the charisma and talent to carry off the part. He's likeable as the hapless lover stuck in a crazy situation. Yami Gautam is easy on the eye and leaves an impact. But it is Kirron Kher who steals the show with an over the top act. She is terrific. Anupam Kher is fun to watch, but gets limited footage. Vishwa Mohan Badola, the septuagenarian, is under-utilized. Sara Khan [Yami's sister] is perfect, while Anuj Pandit Sharma [Yami's brother] hams. Sagar Arya [Yami's bro-in-law] is wooden.
On the whole, TOTAL SIYAPAA appeals in bits and spurts. You expect a laugh-riot, but what comes across on screen is half-baked.