Halfway through Agneya Singh’s M Cream, you realize no one in the film has smoked anything but cigarettes. The plot follows a group of four Delhi University students as they go in search of an elusive type of hash from a mysterious place in Himachal Pradesh. Fair enough; they may have wanted to smoke only high quality stuff—which, by the way, is known to be quite easily available in Delhi. But when a film that poses as “India’s first stoner movie" features more scotch, rum and even chemicals than cannabis, you start questioning the honesty and intention of the film, and you wonder whether calling it a stoner film was just a marketing gimmick.

The four students are hipsters from privileged backgrounds—Figaro “Figs" Bhardwaj (Imaad Shah), Jayashree Bose (Ira Dubey), Niz (Raghav Chanana) and Meghna (Auritra Ghosh)—who go on a road trip to the mountains to generally chill, but also to look for a mythical hash found somewhere there. They treat the quest as if it is an elixir meant to have a deep and profound impact on their lives. Not surprisingly, the students are shown to be inclined towards the arts and politics—Jayashree wants to do a piece on the Free Tibet movement, Niz plans to take photographs and Figs is mostly writing or reading or going about quoting everyone from Vikram Seth to Simon and Garfunkel.

M Cream’s central conflict is the tension between Figs’ weary, nothing-is-holy, question-everything, life-is-meaningless, morally ambiguous worldview and Jayashree’s righteous, activism-streaked journalistic ambitions. From mocking the pretensions of its characters, the film soon becomes the very thing it is taking jabs at, “a walking cliche", as Figs describes Jayashree at one point. It isn’t too bothersome that everything about the characters conforms to the hipster stereotype, from their hairstyles (Figs has an afro) to their clothes to their taste in books music and movies and their political views. If you hang around enough hipsters, you’ll find this stereotype is grounded in truth. But it is the film’s job to go beyond the obvious and reveal the human behind the exterior—the aberrations and contradictions—and that almost never happens in M Cream.

Only Shah gets a moment when we see he is more than an irresponsible hedonist, when he stops Meghna from getting carried away in a potentially dangerous situation. It’s hard to talk about Shah’s performance because in all his films, he seems to play variations of the same character—the hippie University student always experimenting with drugs and sleeping with friend’s girlfriends, but still getting away with it because, you know, at least he is honest about it. Niz and Meghna seem to be in the film just as an excuse for Figs and Jayashree to come close to each other. And other characters, such as Vishnu Das, the leader of a hippie pack, who seem to have a bearing on the narrative disappear abruptly.

In a film that depends on conversations, the language is a big problem. The film is in English and in order to give an accurate picture of its characters’ socio-cultural backgrounds, it vomits words and phrases such as “happy accident", “weird nightmare" and “children of chaos and anarchy". Things become particularly uncomfortable when awkward Hinglish lines are used—I gave up when Niz said, “Guys, hume ab badhna chahiye manzil ki taraf (Guys, we should now climb towards our destination)" Niz is from a rich Muslim family in Delhi, so may have a penchant for speaking in chaste Hindi, but the sentence just doesn’t sound natural.

Forget these issues; the film doesn’t even have a decent “That’s Me" stoner movie moment. No hunger pangs, no bogarting the doobie, no minutiae of a subculture waiting to be portrayed in Indian film. It’s particularly disappointing when you consider that this is a subject that has yielded some of the best Hollywood films, such as The Big Lebowski, Easy Rider and Pineapple Express, and silly but memorable films such as the Harold & Kumar series. The perfectly enjoyable Go Goa Gone is more deserving of the tag of India’s first stoner movie, even though it ended with an anti-drug use message.

The only department M Cream doesn’t falter in is in hiding its low-budget production in the beautiful vistas of the Himalayas, the shacks of the hippie tribes and the homes of simple village folk. But even this is nothing we have not seen before.

Ultimately, M Cream comes off as an amateur, even pretentious effort to showcase an unexplored subculture. In the end, one of the characters says, “What a journey it has been", and you think, “Not really."

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