Cast: Riya Vij,Jayati Modi,Arbaaz Kadwani,Taaha Shah,Doorva Tripathi,Divya Dutta
Director: Sonam Nair
The Indian Express rating: **
Bollywoods awakening to the age of teens,and the in-between individuals who live in this zone,is a fairly new thing. Gippi takes the genre further down the road with its 14-year-old protagonist,more tween than teen. Gippi is roly poly,likes jiving to Shammi Kapoor songs,and thinks nothing of snacking between meal-times. She keeps her mom in good humour,fights with her younger brother Booboo,and is happy with her best friend. Then,like all teenagers,she finds a crush and a contest,and thats when Gippi finds who she really is.
You know where this film is going when you see this beetle-browed young girl being the butt of jokes in class and outside. You know that this is a coming-of-age,and it is a genre that you never tire of,because growing up can mean so many new,wondrous things. The problem is when the tale is neither new,nor wondrous. Gippi takes its cues from the madly popular Mean Girls and Gossip Girl: actually,not just cues,but entire templates. So school becomes a place for vicious fights between the overweight,unpopular Gippi and the very svelte,very mean Shamira (Modi),where a tussle between the two for the position of head girl plays out more like who will be prom queen.
The actors,most of them fresh young faces,all have promise. The scenes between Gippi and her single,working,middle-class mom (Dutta),and brother (Kadwani) have real sweetness. Vij as Gippi is both vulnerable and believable. The trouble is not so much with the performers but with what they are asked to do in an idiom borrowed from American teen dramas: they all,except for one or two,speak Hindi with effort,telling us theyd be more at home in English. The bitchy Miss Ambitious is like so many attitude-striking Hollywood teen queens. Im sure there are kids like this,who model themselves on popular characters in TV sitcoms,but whats the point of seeing them in a Hindi film? This comes off as a mini version of the Karan Johar-directed Student Of The Year,which was itself derivative.
Its nice for Gippi to be saying what it does. That fat and frumpy is not bad. That it is quite all right to be who you are,and not anyone else. That winning is not everything. But it would have been nicer if it had been said in a newer,fresher way.