Film: Meri Pyaari Bindu
Directed by Akshay Roy; Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Parineeti Chopra
Sometimes a debutant director shows a spark that never quite lights up the screen. God knows, Akshay Roy displays a keen eye for Kolkata's eccentricities: the trams and the fast-food lanes, the Durga idol silhouetting the hero's suicide attempt, the loud boisterous parents of the Bengali protagonist Abhi "so-called" so that the theme song of his love story could be "Abhi na jao chod kar ke dil abhi bhara nahin."
Abhi. Get it?
There is a lot to "get" in Meri Pyaari Bindu including its corny cross references to films about unrequited love like Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Muskhil and Nikhil Advani's Katti Batti. Then there is the film's Padosan-inspired title. The film's most embarrassing sequence has Abhi's parents enacting the Kishore Kumar song in a car park.
Cringe late. Parineeti Chopra playing the unstable undependable runaway bride to the stable dependable rock-steady dulha material of a hero,explains that she was named after Saira Banu's character in the evergreen comedy Padosan.
"Why couldn't he name me Saira? So much sexier," she drawls into the ear of Abhi (na ja chhod kar) as they zigzag in an old Ambassador car through the Kolkata of the 1980s. This is life in the fast lane where middleaged Bengali men speak of Satyajit Ray in the same breath as Bindu's on screen vamping.
The cultural mishmash ceases to amusing after a while.
Clearly, Akshay Roy has a lot of fun picking out nostalgic nuggets from our musical past. Aaiye meherbaan dekhiye jaan-e-jaan plays on a black-and-white television set as some poor man hangs by the roof adjusting the antenna. This is a scene straight of a promotional film on Doordarshan's glorious era. It is correct historically culturally but lifeless.
Ditto, the film which is as immaculately assembled in a retro huddle as Suprotim Sengupta's writing permits. But the proceedings are as dull as ditchwater with scene after scene serenading nostalgia with no room for the characters to grow beyond stereotypes.
Take Abhi's Bengali parents. They are clownishly Bengali, screaming and bustling as though Kolkata was on fire. This is not an authentic Bengali household. It is how we see a Bengali household when the Bengali writer detaches himself from the milieu and language to the extent that he can no longer peer into the cultural dynamics without appearing touristic.
There is something distinctly stilted and artificial in the way the songs define the central relationship. Both Ayushmann and Parineeti are musicians. It is therefore surprising that their keen appetite for the melodies of the past do not render themselves to any substantial or coherent commitment to creating a film about a quirky girl and her devoted nextdoor neighbour who serves her purposes, whatever they may be.
Parineeti did this far better in "Haseen Toh Phasee".
Ayushmann as the hangdog loverboy is the saving grace of this dreadfully vapid non-romance about an annoyingly self-centred chick who needs to exercise some self-discipline (unless she thinks Kangana Ranaut in "Queen" is a role-model) and a guy who needs to get himself a life. The film goes through several decades of fads and fashion changes until it comes to a screeching halt with a finale that is as pointless as the prattle and preening that goes on for the most tiresome two hours of your life.
See the film for Ayushmann's sorted balanced intelligent performance as too some interesting cameos, like the actor who plays his publisher exhorting Khurrana to put sex and sleaze into is books.
I almost wished director Akshay Roy had livened up the proceedings with some unpretentious sleaze instead of the unintentional cheesiness that runs through the film with stubborn impunity. At one point in the meandering saga of star-crossed non-lovers, we see Abhi's room-mate glued to the Grand Finale of "Bigg Boss" while Abhi tries to deal with the mess in his life.
It made me nostalgic for the abhorrent Bigg Boss.