Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Nautanki Saala: A comedy of errors
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)
The best scenes in Rohan Sippy‘s “Nautanki Saala” (adapted from French comedy Apres Vous) are the ones where there is no woman or romance involved. Male leads Ayushmann Khurrana and Kunaal Roy Kapoor have a good chemistry going and their humour is quirky and whacky, but funny all the same. The problem in their lives, and in the film, starts when the woman arrives on the scene.
Ram Parmar (Khurrana) a theatre director and actor saves Mandar Lele (Kapoor) from a suicide attempt and brings him home, hoping to shake him out of his depression. Mandar is a diffident, depressed man who wallows in self-pity after being dumped by his girlfriend Nandini (Pooja Salvi). Ram, desperate to bring a ray of hope into Mandar’s life, recruits him in the lead role in a contemporary version of the Ramayana, and seeks out Nandini, hoping to convince her to take Mandar back.
Matters come to a head when Ram falls in love with Nandini. The film’s breezy pace is interrupted by the clunky romance track between Khurrana and Salvi, which weighs it down.
While the director makes great use of the romance and drama of the stage as a backdrop for his story, he fails to bring that same charm to the love story within the film. Given that this love story plays out for almost the entire second half, this is a flaw.
Sippy does succeed at genteel humour – one that is situational and doesn’t rely on gags to make it funny. Mandar’s audition is hilarious as are several exchanges between the two men. Sanjeev Bhatt, playing Chandra, the high-strung producer of the play is one of the highlights as is the film’s dialogue, written by Sippy, Nipun Dharmadikari and Charudutt Acharya.
The real star of “Nautanki Saala” though is Ayushmann Khurrana, who displays impeccable comic timing in his second Bollywood outing. He is ably supported by Kapoor, whose body language clearly depicts the change in his character’s confidence as the film progresses.
“Nautanki Saala” could have been a great film, but it stops short of crossing that benchmark. But it’s worth a watch, especially if you are one of those people who do not enjoy the loud comedies our film industry dishes out with alarming regularity.