DIRECTOR: Rohan Sippy
CAST: Ayushmann Khurrana,Kunaal Roy Kapoor,Pooja Salvi,Gaelyn Mendonca,Evelyn Sharma
Anything can happen over a kiss. As the lips of a guy and girl meet,we are guided through a spectrum: initial reluctance sliding into a hmm-not-too-bad exploration steadying into a breathless lock-in. This is one of Nautanki Saalas highlights. Watching it,you realise how new this coming together of consenting adults through the simple expedient of a kiss,well done,still feels in new age Bollywood. And that is the best part about this absurdist ladcom by Rohan Sippy,that he is trying something different,and within that,some of it feels fresh and fizzy.
Hurrying home one night,theatre man RP aka Ram Parmar (Khurrana) saves a fellow from killing himself. Turns out that Mandar Lele (Kapoor) really is the sort of chap you feel death would have improved. He is a true loser,having lost his girl Nandini (Salvi),and all desire to live. Of course,he has nowhere to go,and nothing to do. So of course nautanki RP gets to cart Mandar around,despite earning the annoyance of girl friend (Mendonca),and his theatre-mates by insisting on getting Mandar a part in the play: how else to keep suicide at bay ?
The naatak RP and co are performing is a version of the Ramayan,and the antics on stage remind you of another film in another era which used another epic to create unforgettable laughter. But Nautanki Saala! is not aiming for big picture black-edged absurd like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro. Its theatre is more personal,more intimate. Its about two young men and their bumbling attempts at finding love,and its plot is based on a French comedy (Nautanki Saala! is the official remake of Apres Vous),rejigged a bit for Bollywood.
But this film is weighed down by its pace and the length. It starts slow and stays slow for much too long. Also,the tonal switches from the absurd to the real make it inconsistent. What is this films address? The performers are also not all at par. In his second film,Ayushmann Khurrana is the one who does the heavy-lifting,making us believe that Vicky Donor was not a fluke; Kunaal Roy Kapoor,who was such a hoot in Delly Belly,is singularly single tone,with just a couple of moments when you feel the click,of him and his part coming together. Salvi,as the fresh-faced girl of their dreams,starts unremarkably,and lifts a bit only towards the end.
Sippy has a feel for staging scenes,and some are laugh-out-loud. The idea that true love can be found through such a random route is also nice,and lends the film a pleasing slightness. But the nautanki in this film is an on-off thing. I wish there was much more of it.