I had a lovely evening at the theater, mostly because I went on a weeknight so it was just me and my friend and we could talk the whole time. I highly recommend talking straight through this movie, the bits that it is fun to talk over are way more common than the bits it is fun to watch. Despite the fact that it is a very very gay/camp movie which you would think means it is entertaining.
This is a remake of Angoor which is a version of Comedy of Errors which is the play where Shakespeare went “what the heck, let’s make them ALL twins and just CONSTANT mistaken identity!” Like if Twelfth Night had no plot. Actually, it was before Twelfth Night, so think of it as a rough draft. And then Will went back to it and said “what if I added PLOT and also made this a deeply meaningful statement on grief and love and self-delusion?” And now I am going down a rabbithole and I want to talk about how good She’s the Man is and how Dil Bole Hadippa is ALMOST that good and then somehow fails. But I will resist and drag myself back to this, much less interesting, twin plot.
Shakespeare did a lot of twin plots for the same reason that Indian film does a lot of twin plots (thus the many many versions of Comedy of Errors besides Angoor which I am choosing to ignore), it’s a great way to use your most talented actor. You can have A plots and B plots and lots of complicated stuff happening, and still just have that one guy the audience loves onstage the whole time. Same reason for Judwaa to have two Salmans and Duplicate to have two Shahrukhs and Satte Pe Satte to have two Amitabhs.
Here’s the problem with this movie, somehow Ranveer just isn’t entertaining enough for me take two of him. It’s not very well-written too, that’s a problem. And it’s clearly made in a weird cheap pandemic way (sooooooooooooo much green screen and very few extras in crowd scenes). But if Ranveer had been really really AMAZING he could have pulled it off. And most of the time, he isn’t.
I love Ranveer, and also think he is enormously talented AND enormously skilled. But something isn’t quite right in this film. Maybe just post-pandemic awkwardness? Something is wrong in the dances, for instance. In two songs he is good old Ranveer, hip swiveling and shoulders working and everything. But in the others he dances like an old man, barely moves. I was looking for some big elaborate reason, but could just be that he hadn’t danced in a long time and need practice. And same with his performance. Maybe the filming taking a total of 2 years (with long long quarantine gaps), just threw him off his game? There are some scenes where he really works and makes the character and the scene work too. But there are others where he is just….not right.
The whole movie is kind of like that and, now that I’ve learned it took 2 years to film and kept being interrupted, that makes sense. Muruli Sharma as the narrator character works well, but I bet he had the luxury of filming almost all his scenes at once. Jonny Lever feels surprisingly good, but maybe that’s because he only has 3 scenes and always just plays Jonny Lever anyway. Actually, most of the random comic characters work for me. The Aunty who turns out to be a crackshot, the retired bandit, I like them. It’s the main plot and the main actors, Ranveer and Varun Sharma, that just doesn’t work.
Oh right, and also the gay stuff. I was going to say “Broad Indian comedy can so easily become campy and a little gay” and now I’m realizing I should just say “Broad comedy can so easily become campy and a little gay”. Since “women aren’t funny”, only men tend to be professional comedians. So you’ve got two over the top comic personas working together, and you need to have them be together constantly as comic partners, and poof you have something that can be read as a fun campy gay couple. In this film, we have a sweet gang of bumbling thieves, Sanjay Mishra and his devoted driver (who he shares a red silk covered hotel bed with), and a whole bit where Ranveer is whipped?
And yet, it doesn’t work. Ranveer loses his character(s), the directors loses the plot, the dialogue is hinky, there are two many ideas and not enough resolution, it’s just a mess. A Comedy of Errors, in fact, and not in a good way.
But the Ranveer-Dips song is AMAZING, and there are some fun gay bits. Like I said, more parts to talk over than to enjoy watching, but still some parts to enjoy.