Film: Via Darjeeling
Director: Arindam Nandy
Producers: Joy Ganguly
Banner: Moxie Entertainments P Ltd
Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Parvin Dabbas, Prashant Narayanan, Rajat Kapoor, Simone Singh, Sandhya Mridul, Sonali Kulkarni, Vinay Pathak
Mumbai: The two worlds that Via Darjeeling juggles are uninspiring. While the mystery of the loving couple on their honeymoon is alarmingly under-wrought, the living room discussion, the mystery spins off, is unnecessarily over-wrought. While the earlier refuses to spark interest because of the failure of the characters to woo us in, the latter fails because having wooed us, it takes us nowhere.
The two worlds are disparate but none that cannot meet though. One is the world of these friends, who over a get-together hear a story from a police officer about a particular case he investigated a few years back and which went nowhere. The second world is that of the couple that ultimately becomes a puppet in the scheme of imagination of the friends as they weave fact with fiction.
The film charts a brave territory. It brings in a mystery angle resolving it only in hypothetical terms and completely turning the tables on the audience in the end. It weaves personalities and their clashes, friendships, psychological games, character studies and even a bit of reality vs. perception in its narrative. Very interesting premises but those that it sadly fails to weave in to effectively engage the audience.
Post-interval, the movie becomes predictable as it seems to follow a pattern it sets for itself, which it breaks only in the pre-climax. The climax comes not with a bang but with a whimper, which ends on a resonating note, quite amusing. The climax makes the audience party to the friend’s theories of the couple’s story.
The film boasts of an interesting casting, with some proven, some unproven actors. Predictably, some succeed some do not. Kay Kay Menon, for long cherished as one of the lesser-acclaimed, talented actors, has been having a record of accomplishment of disappointing more than inspiring. His charming, wronged or scheming lover does not strike those chords. Sonali Kulkarni stands by him, shoulder to shoulder to kill whatever interest the twists in the story might have generated.
Rajat Kapoor plays the greying editor with simple charm and ease that is pleasing in its balance. Simone Singh is equally appealing and carries off her role of an intelligent, gathered homemaker with control. Sandhya Mridul slips in and out of her firebrand character and seems more fake than real, especially in the inebriated scenes.
The best of the lot are the inimitable Vinay Pathak and the explosive Prroshant Narayannan. While the former juggles enigma and frankness in simply superb dichotomy, the latter manages to bring out shades in a character of almost two shades, while doing that with ease, what others might find difficult.
The film is inspired from the oral tradition of story telling in ancient worlds, be it the Occident or Orient. The director employs this tricky narrative style, owing nothing to the ‘sutradhar’ of Hindi theatre and weaves a world of his own. He even sprinkles abundant literary metaphors and references in the film to ground it to a deeper context of story telling. Although, this intent and principle are laudable, by far it is the only thing that’s so in the movie.