Movies

Shreelancer review: Drifting along

Arjun Radhakrishan in Shreelancer  

A laptop, earplugs, a cup of coffee by the side, fingers pounding away furiously at the keyboard. Across the table, in the café, sits another, on a similar work mode. A glance of empathy, a smile of acknowledgment, for each other, from two kindred souls. Sandeep Mohan’s Shreelancer captures the lives of freelancers in little details, be it at home or at the many cafes that fill in as workstations—his father’s phone calls, interrupting work, enquiring about the salary promised at the job interview and then quickly asking for some spinach on the way back home; or the loud guy on the next table coming in the way of the much needed concentration; or the struggles to extract even Rs 200 from the deserving fee that anyhow doesn't come easy.

Twenty-eight-year-old Shreepad Naik (Arjun Radhakrishnan) can’t be caged into a typical office routine. He freelances, writing content — from restaurant menus and obituaries to acts for stand-up comics. When he is not consumed by the laptop, he is inside his mobile, using both the gadgets to live within the virtual world — in his blogs and in the Facebook updates.

Mohan captures it like a fly on the wall — as it is, without any dressing or garnishing. Relationship dynamics are hinted at than dwelled on, at length. A mother who died young, her pictures as memories, a cake that is cut on her birthday in her absence. There's a quiet poignancy to the unresolved grief. As also applies to Shreepad’s uncomfortable, detached camaraderie with his father, someone he desperately wants to make memories with.

The film is as much about capturing the interiority of Shreepad’s world as what is happening around him. Nothing much happens but that’s when life happens. A life that is built on small, innocuous moments than big moments. The narrative is fluid, free-flowing, random and mundane as Shreepad’s days are. Some scenes irk—the stranger in the bar spouting on and on about real and virtual world. But the rough edges in storytelling also parallel the jaggedness of daily life, its one way to get real on screen.

For an urban youngster Shreepad hasn’t travelled beyond his home town and Goa. So the physical travel he eventually goes for is crucial but it is in the structured journey (than the otherwise meandering, aimless life) that the film loses its grip. A journey to Chandigarh and beyond — for a friend’s wedding in Chandigarh, then a restaurant recce, some undefined political issues and encounters and the romp with a French woman, all in Himachal Pradesh. All of it gets protracted, hallucinatory and pointless, the viewer’s connect with the growth, change and self-realisation in the character remain distant. How did it all help him realise that “I am an artiste”. The humour and portrayal of the locals is way too flat and obvious.

Mohan uses real people for most of the roles. But it’s the actor — Arjun Radhakrishnan — who plays Shreepad, who captures his drift and the aimlessness effortlessly. He breathes life into Shree.

For the pragmatic workers on regular jobs the film might seem like an indulgent paean to the forever uprooted. But one has to admit that more than anything else what a (Shree) freelancer’s life has, as the film showcases, is a great soundtrack. And what better song than Ankur Tewari and Prateek Kuhad’s “Dil Beparvah” to sum it all up.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 1:16:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/shreelancer-review-drifting-along/article19510406.ece

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