REVIEW: Nautanki Saala! More Brom-Com Than Rom-Com

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Whenever I watch a film directed or produced by Rohan Sippy I am always struck by how affectionately he captures the quirkiness of South Mumbai. The locations and colours are visually striking indeed. He handles certain scenes in Nautanki Saala! masterfully showing his increased confidence as an individualistic filmmaker.

Sippy and his co-writers Nipun Dharamadhikari and Charudutt Acharya have managed a respectable adaptation of the French romantic comedy Apres Vous which follows the bond that develops between two men when one saves the other from attempted suicide. When Ram Parmar or RP (Ayushmann Khurrana) pulls Mandar Lele (Kunaal Roy Kapur) off a tree and saves his life, the former feels responsible for the latter’s life. RP shelters Mandar and finds him a job in his theatre company. RP, a do-gooder by nature, also determines to reconcile Mandar with is lost love Nandini (Pooja Salvi), but in the process falls in love with her himself.

A few hilarious and well-crafted scenes make the first half fresh and fun. Look out for Mandar’s suicide scene, all the scenes which feature the producer played delectably by Sanjeev Bhatt and especially Mandar’s audition scene (brilliant). The theatrics between Ram and Mandar play out during their stage show where Ram plays Raavan and Mandar fumbles through the part of Ram. My only grouse is the characterization is why Mandar needed to be both a loser and a buffoon.

Problems really pivot around the central actress. Not only is novice Salvi unable to convince you of her charm, but the dubbed voice also does her no favours. Then there’s the absurd suitor in the form of Loli (Rufy Khan). But the real chink in the armour is that many of the potentially cutesy scenes between Salvi and Khurrana are arduous owing to the absolute lack of chemistry between the pair. So when they engage in a painfully long kiss, you find yourself squirming in your seat. Gaelyn Mendonca as Ram’s girlfriend is the most impressive of the trio of girls hovering in Ram’s orbit. Evelyn Sharma is pleasant enough in a role that could have been played by any young actress.

Sippy, as in the past, has fun with his soundtrack. This time he is aided by Mikey McCleary’s funky tunes and Khurrana’s vocals. As an actor, Khurrana is clearly competent. It’s nice to see Khurrana move on from Vicky Donor and when pitted against a more accomplisher performer, like Kapur, the results are sizzling. Kapur’s physicality and control over his material is one of the highlights of this effort.

While the humour is mostly witty and natural, some scenes in this brom-com (bromantic comedy) are over-written and eked out making Nautanki Saala! seem a stretch, even at 130 minutes.

Rating: ***