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Coffee With D: The nation does not want to know

Sunil “Gutthi” Grover is implanted so strongly in the mind as a funny mimic that it’s impossible to take him seriously as an actor. In his big screen outing as a hero (he has done small roles in a clutch of films earlier) Grover ends up doing some imitation yet again, but seriously so. He plays a character called Arnab Ghosh and the nation is certainly not so naïve as to not know who he is standing in for. But unlike Biswapati Sarkar, he doesn’t consistently send up the popular TV journalist, even when he is seeming to. And that’s not his failing. Director Vishal Mishra is clueless about what he wants to do when it comes to handling the world of TV news. At times, he’s trying out parody, at others, it’s satire and then even playing it very straight. As a result, what you get is an irredeemable mess.

One minute, you have Grover ridiculing a politician in the studio, not allowing him a word sideways, the next you see him wearing pyjamas that say “zindagi rude, hum dude”. In yet another instance, you have him staring at Haji Ali in genuine anxiety, almost shedding tears as a qawwali plays in the background. All this emotional overload because he has been yanked off prime time and made to host some cookery show.

There is more: an irritable and irritating pregnant wife at home (who was once a crime reporter but now watches Crime Patrol to kill time), a make-up man-cum-chaiwala and a cameraman-cum-courier. These two also play fictional characters in the supposed news reports engineered by the channel. Confused? Well, so are we. Still.

But then it only gets worse. There is a woman journalist, portrayed by Dipannita Sharma, who should be described as a misogynist’s dream. A fashion journalist is a “chaddi-baniyan” reporter who is prone to shedding her clothes easily, but who is also “desh ki sabse badi news writer” without showing any modicum of intelligence.

What kind of an imagination does the filmmaker have? I haven’t squirmed more on my seat. Now this fashion journo also goes with Arnab all the way to Karachi for an exclusive interview with the underworld Don D. But pray why? To let the goondas go all leery at her and have some more lewd jokes pouring in.

In critiquing media — its urgency to create news, to sell news as entertainment — the film betrays an utter ignorance about the basics of a TV newsroom. When do journalists ever bring in story ideas stacked in plastic files and folders? Why would they tweet about a big interview without it even getting fixed?

Then there is the other world: the D empire in Karachi. Here, the filmmaker’s approach is singularly more spoofy, but still not successfully so. With two extremely talented actors holding centre-stage — Zakir Hussain as the Don and Pankaj Tripathi as his sidekick Girdhari — you hope things will get better. Alas, their Herculean efforts are wasted. All because the script expects them to make the audience laugh at jokes like Instagram being referred to as the gram panchayat. #HaHa!

It all ends up with a long interview for an overlong climax, in which, supposedly, Arnab makes mincemeat of D. Well, there is little evidence of that, but you have to believe it because the filmmaker says so.

Lastly, in the name of relevance, you finally do get a scene where Arnab tries to buy groceries from a store, but the credit cards aren’t working and there is no cash in the wallet either. The only credit that Coffee With D then gets is that of being the first Bollywood film to portray demonetisation. Beyond that what is there to recall!

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 2:43:05 AM |

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