Well, this was not a good movie! But a not-good movie in that way where I could see the goodness struggling to break through, and then being suffocated by bad choices. Very frustrating, with a different cast and a slightly different script, this could have been something special.
There are 5 leads in this film, Divya Dutta, Anil Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Aishwarya Rai, and Pihu Sand. 3 of these people were brilliant and touching and elevated their roles far beyond what was on the written page. One of them was appropriate for her part and didn’t really add anything else. And one of them was so bad it made the plot hard to follow because her character was so unknowable. Guess which one????
I won’t make you wait in suspense, it was Aish. Some of her dialogue delivery, notably her very first line in character, is so poor that it feels like an actor acting like someone acting. Like there will be a big reveal that she was just faking all along and lying to everyone around her. That’s what I mean by making the plot hard to follow, because some of the time I think her character was supposed to be faking things? But I couldn’t tell the difference, and sometimes the character-pretending-to-feel-things parts were better performed and delivered than the character-actually-feeling-things parts, so the whole performance was just endlessly confused and I never knew my right from my left or my up from my down with her.
Aish isn’t always this bad, when she has a strong script around her and a strong director, she can pull stuff off. But this is not a strong script or a strong director. Anil and Rajkummar and Divya Dutta are able to rise above and somehow drag a meaningful character out of what they have been given. Poor Pihu Sand can’t, and I wouldn’t really expect her too. She gives a far better performance than Aish, natural and easy to follow her emotions on her face. But she can’t quite dig in and give that second layer, provide something under the surface motivations. And so her character fails a little as well. Which means it is up to Anil and Rajkummar to save the film. ‘
Oh Rajkummar! I’m pretty sure I’m not crazy when I say he is getting hotter every year. It’s not just that he is getting better roles, his face is getting increasingly defined and mature and it really really works for him. When he and Anil are onscreen together, it is two great actors bringing out the best in each other. The end result being that their relationship is the one the audience cares most about in the film. And, according to the script, is the relationship we should care about least since it has no real conflict or resolution, is just there as a plot device.
(He’s hotter now. Right?)
Same with Anil and Divya Dutta. They are a great pair of actors working together and creating this powerful feeling of a relationship between husband and wife. A relationship that never has a resolution either, or a build in any way, because it is not supposed to be narratively important.
Instead, the narrative places all the weight on Anil and Pihu Sand, and Aish and Rajkummar, and neither of those posts is strong enough to hold the structure, and so it all ends up wobbling.
Or maybe it was supposed to wobble? I haven’t seen the Belgian original, but it is described as a “black comedy”. If this was a black comedy, it would make a lot more sense. If Anil’s character was supposed to be deluded, Aish’s vapid and shallow, Pihu’s empty and narcissistic, and the entire world of the film cynical and unjust, then this would be a good film. But it’s an Indian film, so it can’t be that. Everyone is redeemed, everyone is sincerely moved by the power of music, blah blah blah.
What’s frustrating is, somewhere between the black comedy and the sincerity, there is some really good stuff. Anil’s performance is perfect start to finish, hitting a sweet spot between deluded and loving. And Pihu Sand has a wonderful song in the middle, making fun of the popular item songs and so on from Hindi films and stringing them all together into a joyous mix. It’s not just that it is a clever song, it gives some kind of feeling of pop culture and these kinds of songs and dialogues giving power and hope to the people. A message that is the antithesis of everything else the film shows, making it a super awkward fit. And there’s funny stuff too, everything with Rajkummar makes you laugh.
But then there’s other stuff that should be funny, which isn’t, because the film surrounds it with too much sincerity. I’m not able to laugh at the sleazy amoral characters because I care too much about the characters around them. The goal of a black comedy is nihilism, ultimately. Nothing matters, so we might as well laugh at it. But in this film, too much still matters for me to laugh at anything. Well, plus Aish is terrible.