Chopsticks movie cast: Abhay Deol, Mithila Palkar, Vijay Raaz
Chopsticks movie director: Sachin Yardi
Chopsticks movie rating: One star
Chopsticks is being touted as a first of its kind – a Netflix ‘original’ Hindi film. It starts off with a hint of promise, with a rooted-in-her-middle-class-values-Maharashtrian-‘mulgi’ Nirma Sahastrabuddhe (Palkar) acquiring her first shiny new car. As we track Nirma chatting with her mom through Mumbai’s crowded roads, the character starts taking shape: Nirma is a rule-abider-and-breaker (talking on the cellphone and driving, while nodding dutifully along with her ‘aai’), a listener of ‘self-improvement’ tips, and clearly someone who is a real, relatable young woman.
When Nirma also reveals her clunky, vulnerable side at the work-place, with a boss from hell, and bitchy colleagues, we can’t help but root for her. But the set-up, which starts out with potential, unravels all too soon to reveal a film which has no idea of what it wants to be: is it a rom-com, a romp-through-big-bad-Mumbai, a coming of age drama…what, exactly?
Palkar plays as well as she can. At least her character, with its detailing (a professional who earns a living, a Mandarin expert, a young woman who wants to get ahead without losing herself) is given something to work with. At least to begin with. But the all-over-the-place script does no favours to poor Abhay Deol, who seems to be playing someone’s idea of an urbane thief who lives in what seems like an abandoned building with a state-of-the-art-kitchen where he rustles up gourmet dishes, the quality of which could easily please the hard-nosed judges on Masterchef. Huh? Don’t ask.
The third person with anything substantial to do is Vijay Raaz, who plays a goon (yes, again) with a thing for his handsome goat who goes by the name of Bahubali, and Kishore Kumar songs.
On paper, the coming together of all these disparate elements, with a bit of ‘goondagiri’ and ‘car thievery’ tossed in, as the characters roam around the seamier side of Mumbai, may have seemed a like good idea. But the execution is dismally and shockingly amateurish.
‘Quirky and offbeat’ is how the film describes itself. And for a flick which has all the freedom granted by a streaming platform, a perky female lead and a leading man who has done some interesting work in the past, now on the lookout for a fresh lease, the right filmmaker can come up with delightful quirks, and can range far, far away from conventional Bollywood.
But if this is all the filmmakers can come up with in the name of ‘quirky’, I’d much rather deal with Bollywood: at least you know where the constraints are.