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