MISMATCHED: What if Simran in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai were a lesbian? And what if she hung around Rahul as his best friend without ever lusting for him? Mismatched seems to take off from there, and we have Namrata (Devyani Shorey), bestie to Rishi (Rohit Saraf, who seems to have walked straight out of Ludo into this project wearing the same clothes and expressions).
Namrata has the hots for the campus gypsy Celina who smokes joints, rides a scooty and uses foul language. Clearly, she is a fan of Kangana Ranaut though it isn’t mentioned anywhere. It’s also not clear which way the dyke rolls for her. Like most of the situations created in the overarching plot, this ode to lesbianism is more froth and fizz than substance.
So much remains unsaid in this mishmash of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and Kal Ho Na Ha .The initial energy of the presentation and the enthusiastic performances of the young and the older (the two actors playing the protagonist Dimple’s parents are a hoot) make us believe that this six-episode campus caper would hit the ground running.
Sadly, it stumbles and falls in no time at all. There is nothing wrong with a coming-of-age rom-com populated with all sorts dudes and babes including an over-sexed NRI chap Harsh (Vihaan Samrat), a wheel-chaired angry video gamer Anmol (Taruk Raina, potential here), a resident nerd Momo (Rituraj Shinde), a girl who lives only on Instagram.The plot’s prime focus is on Rishi who comes to the campus to win over his “arranged” wife Dimple. Rohit Saraj and Prajakta Kohli inject a felicitous wholesomeness to their parts. Some of the other young actors also keep their characters’ spirits alive even when the plot begins to sag in no time at all until there comes a point where we have no choice but to wait for everyone to quiet down and just exhale.
A SUITABLE BOY: A Magnificent Melodrama.How does a filmmaker, no matter how gloriously skillful, compress an epic novel into the cinematic format without losing the flavour of the original source-material? Deepa Mehta tried and failed with Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.Mira Nair scores a resounding success with Vikram Seth’s beloved 1993 novel about a young pretty educated girl Lata Mehra's (debutante Tanya Maniktala) search for a bridegroom in 1951 when India was still recovering from its recent amputation. Seth’s glorious novel and now the befitting screen version choose not to centralize the political upheavals of those times. Instead A Suitable Boy is dizzily buoyant and brimming with a joie de vivre as it weaves in and out of lives from two related upper middle class families, the Mehras and the Kapoors both privileged and aware of it.
Be warned. If you haven’t read the novel (and who hasn’t!) you will find it excruciating to figure out who’s who. By the time you do, the series , spinning a web of romantic anecdotes in a world of rapidly-changing morals and politics, is over.
How I wished it would go on a bit longer! At the end of the last episode, Lata finds her match. I wanted to know how well her marriage works, how much of her doubts and certainties about marital equations were proven to be right. Mira Nair adroitly pulls us into Lata’s life: her overbearing family, her best friend and of course her three suitors Kabir (Danesh Razvi), Amit (Mikhail Sen) and Haresh (Namit Das).
Each of the three wannabe husbands is played by actors who look supremely comfortable in their parts, but Namit Das is specially engaging as a smalltown humble sincere shoemaker with ambitions of marrying above himself. It is an emphatically empathetic character in a series teeming with enough characters to populate a small village. They all seem far removed in their clothes, moral preferences, etc from the world we know. In fact, Lata’s mother Rupa (Mahira Kakkar) is hysterical in her emotional extravagance.
The heightened emotions of a culture grappling with a statehood that straddles them between their Indianness and lately banished Britishness, are brilliantly contoured in Mira Nair’s sumptuous character studies. Each character, big or small , is wonderfully well-sketched. A large part of the warmth that they exude, even when portraying a moral reprehensibility comes from the actors who are so, so Vikram Seth and yet so Mira Nair!
Although their politics and sexual politics are finely enmeshed in the plot (and yes, Andrew Davies has done an exemplary job of adapting Vikram Seth’s lurching lilting epic novel) the pivotal part of Saeeda Bai, the tawaif who holds the key to the Kapoor family’s near-ruination is played by the incomparable Tabu with less passion than expected.
I am afraid Tabu has not done what is expected of her. Her Saeeda Bai comes across as jaded, and that’s not just the character’s personality. It’s more to do with this super actresss’ inability to cross from competence into the realm of resplendence as she usually does. Even when she lip-syncs those raw guttural Ghazals, she doesn’t quite get the sur right.
Ishaan Khatter as the scandalous heir of the Kapoor family and Saeeda Bai’s paramour hits all the right notes. His Maan Singh is young, callow, passionate,earnest and idealistic . And though sizzles in his frantic intimacy with Tabu, I saw more chemistry in Khattar’s scenes with his screen-father Ram Kapoor (brilliant) and his Muslim best friend Firoz (Shubham Saraf).
Though the splendid series scores steeply in period details (the 1944 hit song Do naina matware tihare and the 1950 song 'O gore gore banke chore' figure prominently) it is the interpersonal relationships that finally hold together Mira’s magnificent ode to that long-gone mood of heightened romance which navigated the lives of the well-to-do after the birth of a new nation. Even in a sequence such as the one where the pregnant Savita (Rasika Duggal,as usual a natural) discusses suitors, marriages, pregnancy and periods with her inexperienced sister Lata, the emotions are relatable, yet heightened.
Lavishly mounted but never unduly embellished with props or A Suitable Boy is a suitable tribute to that era post Independence when a certain section of Indians was not sure how British it should remain. The cultural uncertainties of the times render themselves ably to a plot that is so confidently conventional as to seem just the opposite.By the time Lata rushes to the station to stop her love from leaving, we realize how compelling romantic clichés can be in the right hands.
BAD BOYS BILLIONAIRE: All the three hour-long episodes share a common trait: the fall from grace of high-fliers. I found the exercise a bit hypocritical because the people now sitting on their high horses commenting on the docu-series on Vijay Mallya’s extravagant lifestyle were busy partying with him as if there was no tomorrow. Yesterday’s hedonists, today’s moralists.All a matter of time. As for being branded a disgraceful tycoon, it’s all about not getting caught with or without your pants down. The Vijay Mallya segment is specially embarrassing for the way the compromised have turned into accomplices. One socialite calls Mallya a naughty child who never grew up. How grownup are we as a nation to let these tycoons hoodwink us? Of the three profiles of Indian entrepreneurs released in Bad Boys Billionaire,the Subrato Roy profile is the most revealing. It shows a whole nation being conned into believing in the myth of the modern day altruist, warts, moles, loopholes and all. Among the three bratty billionaires profiled in this fairly humdrum omnibus, the Subrato segment is the only one that shows the man possessing the common Indian’s mind in an evangelical grip.
So what makes the common man so accepting of these dapper thugs hiding their lawsuits in well-tailored suits? The anthology has little to reveal on what makes us Indians such suckers for social climbers, the higher they go, the steeper the fall.
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