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This ‘nautanki’ doesn’t hold

anuj kumar
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a few memorable momentsAyushmann Khurrana and Kunal Roy Kapur in the film
a few memorable momentsAyushmann Khurrana and Kunal Roy Kapur in the film

nautanki  lacking in piquancy, it starts as a quirky comedy but settles down to be a predictable love triangle inhabited with characters who are either too good to be true or too idiotic to be funny. No, one doesn’t always pay to watch life on screen but the intrinsic logic should hold and it is here that the Rohan Sippy film slips from farcical to foolish.

Ram (Ayushmann Khurana) is a successful theatre actor-director with a caring girlfriend Chitra (Gaelyn Mendonca fits the part). Now, Ram has an unusual altruistic streak in him, which not only makes him save an absolute loser called Mandar Lele (Kunal Roy Kapoor) from suicide but also makes him cast Mandar as Ram in his popular play Ravanleela . Mandar turns out to be a dim wit reeling under the effect of a break-up with a florist Nandini (Pooja Salvi). As the boys bond over some morphine and madness, we get some refreshing moments in romance. However, when Ram plays Cupid so that Mandar gets his confidence back, we guess that he will eventually end up at the receiving end of the arrow.

Adapted from Pierre Salvadori’s French film Après Vous , a lot has been lost in translation and one of them is the soul. Sippy has moved the original plot from a restaurant setting to theatre and while he has been able to create the look, the essence has evaporated. A few more drafts and better casting would have done the trick but as of now its flaws are crying for attention.

Mandar’s grandmother (Sulbha Arya) does drop a hint when she says that one who does nothing becomes an actor but to justify this line on screen you need an actor of immense calibre, which Kunal is not. Why would Ram fall for Nandini when he has a consistent girlfriend in Chitra, who is pretty sorted? Of course, there is a surprise kiss but still one doesn’t like to miss a heartbeat for these charactersand the screenplay doesn’t justify the jumps from comic to real.

Kunal gives a laboured performance in a role which requires Vinay Pathak or Ranvir Shorey kind of flair to be endearingly lunatic. Rohan doesn’t help his cause as his transformation from a non-actor to a performer doesn’t pass muster. Pooja fails to charm as a rather dumb florist who keeps watering wrong hopes until she finds Ram.

The absolutely affable Ayushmann tries hard to tide over the lacunae and gives a masterful performance. The problem is he makes his co-stars look inefficient.

As he has shown in his previous films, Rohan conjures up endearing moments, creates subtle humour and his mastery over technical details makes this Nautanki a sleek product but when it comes to bringing all the ingredients together he once again disappoints. You can chuckle over certain lines, applaud the way the drama is set up but by the time the second act starts, we begin to get an impression that Rohan is done with what he had brought for us and is now only looking for a palatable conclusion. What started as something different, refreshingly absurd begins to behave like being different just for the sake of it. Ayushmann has to sing a Punjabi number just because he did something similar in his last film. At one point Chitra tells Nandini, “Girl, this is 2013 you are in control”. It is this control that’s missing from the narrative. It not only stretches but also leaves you feeling, Oh! It could have so much more.

anuj kumar

NAUTANKI SAALA

Cast: Ayushmann Khurana, Kunal Roy Kapoor, Pooja Salvi

Genre: Drama

Director: Rohan Sippy

Plot: The story of Ram who loves to play Raavan and inadvertently becomes one in the life of his BFF.

Bottomline: Wish Ram had not saved Mandar!


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