There was a time when the man-child character was perfected by and sole proprietorship of Saif Ali Khan. To say there was a time feels wrong. His role in last year’s Happy Ending wasn’t all that different. After him the role seems to have fallen on Imran Khan’s forever droopy shoulders. To the last decade’s multiplex filmmaker this man-child was the script’s pivot much like the overstated and overused (by filmmakers and film critics alike) manic pixie dream girl of a time gone past. Only where the man-child was present, a supposedly irresistible bohemian spirit was too. And that’s the character Kangana has all but made her own. Advani probably thought that’s his job done and he can force fit a dated love story into this. Only this film about a malformed man-child had a chance if it was a coming of age story. But here only we age as the film stutters to its end.
The least you can do when working with an uninspired story is make your characters quirky. Advani’s world is full of the stock variety. Take Maddy’s (Imran Khan) little sister – precocious to the core given to doling out unsolicited advice that border on perfunctory. Why not go the whole hog and make her an actual kid? Now isn’t that interesting? It’s not inventive, yes, but neither is more than half of your film. In that case at least her scenes become something else and not the chore that they are now. Sometimes who mouths your dialogues can affect the impact of a scene tremendously. What about the pet shop owner and his friends masquerading as a band with songs that put our lachrymose Maddy to shame? These characters speak like they are out of email and whatsapp forwards and all they have are inanities for the already inane Maddy. Even their band is called FOSLA that I don’t want to dignify by sharing its full form. And imagine what went on during the script discussion, if there was any. For comic relief – because our hero is too whiny all the time – let’s have a madrasi named Ramalingam. And he should be how we all know these foreign people to be – crass, loudmouth and straight of the 1950s. A little more effort Mr.Advani?
And if he needed any pointers he can look towards another Imran Khan film from a few years ago. He needs to take lessons from Shakun Batra who made the enjoyable (and a film that grows on you – try a second watch) Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. Khan played a similar schlimazel often misconstruing himself and others, locked in a cocoon that others have built over him for him till an ebullient flower child saves his day. If you want the one line plot it’s as rehashed as Katti Batti but what Batra does with it makes it all the more rewarding. The characters are shaded better, the writing is more honest and makes you invest in the story. His ingenuity was not limited to a couple in a hospital bed reading Fifty Shades of Grey aloud What were you thinking Nikhil Advani?
(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)