Rule number one of telling a joke: Let us do the laughing, please.

Mirch is four adult jokes tied together as one full-blown film and if it was just that — an anthology of short and snappy tales of infidelity then and now — it might have been a fairly engaging film.

But it tries hard to explain its form and reasoning. It doesn't get any lamer than having a filmmaker as the protagonist pitching four stories about sex to get the producer excited enough to produce the film. All of these stories, though reasonably funny and very well performed, end with at least one of the characters cracking up on how funny it is.

And there are long-winded montages to filmmakers and films that the director is inspired by, cheesy visual effects and lack of a central conflict (to hold the main narrative together) to ruin the perfectly fun stories for you.

The film has ambitions of being artsy, imagines itself to be so and even gives itself a pat on the back for being smart enough to package itself according to the rules of the business.

So basically, it's a filmmaker who considers himself to be an artist who won't sell out, telling us that he has successfully packaged art cinema in a form we will more than willingly consume it in. The only way this could have been worse if director Vinay Shukla had cast himself in the lead role. This is only just one step short of that.

It is this indulgent self-righteous proclamation about art and passion that bores us to death in between the stories themselves which are fairly amusing though they don't do much beyond reinforcing stereotypes about cheating wives and suspicious husbands.

But thankfully, the filmmaker has a powerhouse of talent to back his vision and they deliver. Raima Sen is just fantastic as she lights up the frames with sheer presence, perfectly cast as the demure, seemingly innocent, loving wife in two contrasting stories with identical situations. Konkana Sen too gets to let her hair down and have some fun in two of the funniest gags in the film. Shreyas Talpade really makes his disguises work and breathes life into the caricatures he gets to play as he spies on his wife while Boman Irani shines in a one-note cameo. Arunodhay Singh as the lead is the weakest link and it does not help that he's surrounded by a first-rate ensemble that includes Shahana Goswami, Sushanth Singh, Tisca Chopra, Prem Chopra, Ila Arun and Rajpal Yadav.

There's this beautiful moment that crops up when Raima asks Shreyas if he suspected her when it slowly dawns on her that her playful husband was probably in disguise to test her fidelity. It's a beautiful mood shift and both these actors shift gears rather effortlessly and the scene sparkles with understatement.

If only the rest of the film had that sensitivity, this could have been something. But how can you expect refinement and a taste of the sublime when the maker wants to drown it all in Mirch and celebrates his success with an item number?

Mirch

Genre: Comedy

Director: Vinay Shukla

Cast: Raima Sen, Konkana Sen, Shahana Goswami, Arunodhay Singh, Sushanth, Boman Irani, Shreyas Talpade, Prem Chopra, Tisca Chopra

Storyline: A filmmaker pitches four stories about sex and infidelity to a producer to be made as a multiplex film

Bottomline: The stories are good, the actors fantastic but the thread stringing them all together – self-referential and indulgent