All roads lead nowhere
Raaghav Dar’s My Friend Pinto is a tableau caper set in a night in Mumbai. Various plots involving a bickering married couple, an autorickshaw driver, an animated don, a yesteryear’s heroine past her prime, an aspiring dancer with a troubled past with her mother, and Pinto, whose first night it is anywhere outside of his village, converge in one place and one situation for a final resolution.
So there are many threads to this chaotic, inchoate story. Most of them don’t have an abiding reason to be there. A debut director who has also written the film’s screenplay, Dar introduces too many characters and is unable to develop any of them. Tableau or hyperlinked narratives often have that affliction, and they work best when the writer is less interested in a firm resolution or a classical, plot-driven story and more focused on the atmospherics and the mental landscape of characters (two of my favourite examples in the tableau genre are Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores Perros.
Muddled: Kalki Koechlin is one of the many characters in the film, which lacks depth and imagination.
In My Friend Pinto, you are supposed to guess. What will happen to Pinto in this mad night he is surviving, when events trigger other events? Finally, when the psychedelic climax arrives, you are crashing under the superficial excess the film carries, and don’t really care what happens to the grinning boy.
Michael Pinto (Prateik) visits his childhood friend (Arjun Mathur) and his ambitious wife (Shruti Seth) in Mumbai at an inopportune time. It is New Year’s Eve and the couple is headed to a party hosted by the wife’s boss. It doesn’t help that she harbours inexplicable ill feelings for the village boy. On a parallel plane, the don with exaggerated antics (Makarand Deshpande) has offended his muse (Divya Dutta), formerly an actress in Bollywood B-films. There’s a girl who is betrayed by her lover who has also landed in Mumbai (Kalki Koechlin). She wants to be a dancer like her mother, against the mother’s wishes. The plot further thickens when five more characters are introduced. At some point through the night, all the characters encounter each other and become embroiled in a mess that they all unwittingly contribute to. So then, the final, neat knot is a must.
Dar’s writing lacks depth and imagination. The dialogues are banal. The lead, Pinto, is a charmless, naive man (the writer seems to base this trait entirely on his being from a village), who changes the lives of many without doing anything at all. My Friend Pinto is bereft of cinematic vision. Simple details such as the time span of a scene or a situation are bizarrely illogical and coincidental. While a lot happens with some of the characters through the night, the married couple’s cutaways are always inside a car, stuck in a traffic bottleneck.
Except Dutta, who packs in some power to her cameo of a woman living on her glorious past, performances are uneven and perfunctory. Prateik, who has shown promise earlier, has no material to work with here, and he is visibly awkward.
Actors are wasted in this pointless exercise.
My Friend Pinto released in theatres on Friday.
Film Review | Mod
It’s Aranya’s 25th birthday, and in this small hill town, her father (Raghuvir Yadav), aunt (Tanvi Azmi) and family friends celebrate the occasion with tequila shots. It’s her initiation into adulthood. But Aranya (Ayesha Takia) is already running her own home and business—as a watch repairer and also a part-time helper in her aunt’s restaurant. In ‘Mod’, Nagesh Kukunoor’s new film, life is meandering along until a reticent young man rings her bell and brings the same watch to be repaired every day from then on.
Inevitably, Aranya and Andy (Rannvijay Singh) fall in love. The moments between the young couple, as they flirt over a faulty watch, bring an involuntary smile to your face, and while the immensely likeable Takia lives up to expectations, it is Singh who surprises with his shy and tentative act.
Likeable: Takia (left) and Singh.
So far, ‘Mod’ is based on the Taiwanese film ‘Keeping Watch’. Kukunoor blends that with a different second half. A twist in the tale in the second half takes the story in a different direction. A complex story unfolds, which exposes Singh’s inexperience and therefore inability to entirely grasp the psychosis of his character.
The gentle love story will surely appeal to the audience, although the pace is a tad sluggish. Ridding the couple of the ordinary songs might have helped keep proceedings ticking along crisply.
Many Hindi movies set in small towns inaccurately age the film, but not ‘Mod’, which stays naturally contemporary. Writer-director Kukunoor also slips in that little social message when land sharks come looking to buy Aranya’s idyllic home, which is an obstacle in their plans to build a resort at the hill station.
As is Kukunoor’s forte, he manages to score some extremely well-written scenes—among them is a sequence when, for the first time, Andy pays for his watch repair with an origami swan crafted out of a Rs 100 note and another when Gangaram (Nitin Ratnaparkhi, superb in this one scene) confesses his feelings of love and the pain of rejection to Aranya.
As experienced actors fluidly do, both Yadav and Azmi underplay their crucial characters.
I recommend ‘Mod’ as a family movie, a date movie and for ladies-who-lunch outings.
‘Mod’ released on Friday.