Flip-flopping approach to concepts!

The Asian Age.  | subhash k jha

Entertainment, In Other News

This 4-story web series from talented director Bijoy Nambiar’s stables is disappointing.

Jim Sarbh

A rousing performance by the rapidly-evolving Jim Sarbh rescues this 4-story building  from an impending collapse.

The foundation of the stories  is disconcertingly wobbly. Considering it comes from one of my favourite contemporary filmmakers Bejoy Nambiar whose last Malayalam  film Solo knocked the breath out of me, the product is a special letdown. Nambiar and his  directors make a pitch for stories that have a U-turn twist mid-way .

Swerves  you right?  Not  quite! The twists that  coil and recoil across the  vibrant but  timed-out  narrative canvas, leave  us with more unanswered questions than the suspense format  permits. It’s like every  story wants  to  grab us by  our  collar.

The  first story is helmed by the redoubtable Ranveer Shorey who plays a whitecollar guy whose life is screwed up by an incident  from  his  college days. At a party he spots  the  man who did his  self-confidence in. Small world, large ambitions. What  follows is more amusing than disturbing. The episode’s tonal shifts are achieved with all the grace of an elephant walking across  a manicured lawn.

A still from the series Flip

Not even Shorey’s  sincere performance can  evoke even a dot of empathy for  the  persecuted character he plays. While Bejoy Nambiar’s trademark humour that he implants in the shadows  of  anxiety,  shines through in some scenes,  the  story just doesn’t hold together.

The second story  Happy Birthday directed  by Aman Sachdeva attempts to satirise  the cult of  blind faith and superstition. But the chatty freewheeling   format, the  semi-hallucinogenic treatment  and  the  corny conversations  among a  group of friends who seem  so high on hash that they  are  bound to make a hash of their lives , is not quite the   situation that generates a  thoughtful debate on  rationale  and  blind faith. Arjun Mathur as a guy who believes he is  done in by the number  ‘4’  barely passes muster. This 4-play,  after Mathur’s   thoughtful sensitive  performance  in the  recent webseries Made In Heaven, is  particularly  bothersome. In one sequence Mathur is seen  ready to  have sex with his girlfriend. She  moans about ‘protection’. He ignores. Years later she shows  up with his child like Sharmila Tagore in Manmohan Desai’s Aa Gale Lag Ja.

Eras, values and formats change. Content remains unmoved.

The strikingly-shot  story  Hunt  directed  by Bejoy Nambiar, follows  a bunch of  red-clad  jungle fugitives as  they are  followed  by  uniformed  gun-men  trained to shoot on target.  There is  a certain  intrinsic  tension in  the  plot and the actors  look like they enjoy the outdoors. But  the story is eventually more interested  in doing that  ‘flop’ from that  ‘flip-flop’ promised in  the series’ title than in actually  making a lasting  impression.

Hunt looks  deep dark and  mysterious  thanks to Jay Oza’’s  snappy-yet-meditative camerawork. This is one of  the better stories of  the  quartet. But the  best one is Massage a sprawling satirical tragic  devastating  saga of  family business  and betrayal with a kickass performance  by  Jim Sarbh as a Parsi dikra whose  best friend (Viraf Patel) takes him for an adventure ride that delivers excitement than anyone had bargained for.

Though many portions of  this tale  are hard to believe,  and  the narrative constantly dares  us to disbelieve, and although some  of  the Parsi accents  are more fake than Vivek Oberoi’s Modi beard, Massage  kept me watching for Sarbh’s  towering performance which partly echoes Daniel Day Lewis’ classic  My Left  Foot.

Alas, high ambitions are  largely thwarted  in this interesting-in-parts  but way too anxious to shock, series caught  into  its web. Everyone needed to just take  a deep breath  while shooting these stories instead of  being perpetually on the edge.