‘What Are The Odds?’ movie review: An uptight teen drama

‘What Are the Odds?’ lacks the energy and naiveté of living inside a teen mind  

Filmmaker Megha Ramaswamy is evidently aiming for whimsy with What Are the Odds?, and on paper (or in its intriguing trailer), the film has all the elements of an amusing teen drama. But eccentricity and quirk are rather tricky qualities to achieve, as they require you to rebel against expectations and perceptions, yet without applying a formula to it. The scope for imagination is boundless, and the world you conceive has to appear natural and organic. Ramaswamy’s film falls short on many counts as she puts whimsy on a pedestal over substance and eccentricity remains an embellishment, resulting in a film that’s mildly enjoyable, let alone memorable once it’s over.

It’s a pity that several scenes, even the ones with elements of magical realism, evoke a feeling that we’ve seen this before, not in a way of replication but by intent. One may not find too many reference points in Indian films, but What Are the Odds? is reminiscent of movies like The Breakfast Club (1985) or perhaps even something as visually eccentric as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), in spirit. In these films, gawky teens live inside their heads, and we as ‘grown-up’ audience experience what they experience, but as outsiders. One can’t, therefore, fully tell fantasy from reality, and that’s the whole point. What Are the Odds? lacks that energy and naiveté of living inside a teen mind. The scenes are written around idiosyncrasies, but not much thought is given to a larger picture. Even these individual scenes would perhaps read better on paper than what is offered on-screen.

What Are The Odds?
  • Director: Megha Ramaswamy
  • Cast: Yashaswini Dayama, Karanvir Malhotra, Ananya Melkote, and Abhay Deol
  • Storyline: Two teens navigate a day together after missing their scholarship exam

The narrative is contained to a day spent by two teens, who forge an unlikely friendship. A 15-year-old girl, amusingly named, Vivek (Yashaswini Dayama), is as rebellious as a teen would be, who is left to the care of her grandmother and her parents are not closely involved in her life. She drags an 18-year-old school head boy, Ashwin (Karanvir Malhotra) into her misadventures after wriggling out of an exam.

The film’s focus is on characters, and they are, at least on paper, rather funny. A man named Amol Palekar peeing on a terrace, a cuckoo grandma suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and a middle-aged man who wants to charm her by finding her lost dentures, a missing dad who might potentially be a queer cross-dresser, and weird older lovers: all these characters have great potential but none are fleshed out enough to make an impact. It’s understandable that not everyone can get lavish screentime, but their sporadic appearances and disappearances make you feel like they were forgotten along the way.

Dayama and Ananya Melkote, who plays her sidekick, are naturally funny and can pull off teenage grumpiness easily. Malhotra manages to keep up with them, but the effort shows. And Abhay Deol has little to do beyond flashing those dimples. It makes me lament over the possibility of what this film could have been in a parallel universe, had it let itself completely loose.

What Are The Odds? is currently streaming on Netflix India

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 12:56:34 AM |

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