Few of our actors take up roles, let alone play them beautifully, that explore the midlife crisis of the average Indian male as frequently as Manoj Bajpayee. In Neeraj Pandey’s new short film Ouch, Bajpayee, as in Gangs of Wasseypur, plays a middle aged man caught between the domestic pull of his family life and the lure of the forbidden. And not unlike before, Bajpayee, with his tragicomic touches, makes what could be seen as immoral, endearing. Pandey understands the gift of his lead actor—he tapped into it when he cast him as a a CBI officer who is bullied by his wife in the 2013 heist film Special 26— and designs the 14 minute film around it.

The actor, always watchable even if one feels he is repeating himself, makes it work. With a lesser actor, the humour could’ve fallen flat, especially when things like a silly ringtone that plays every time his mother calls, or an awkward turn by the actress, don’t quite work. There is little to like elsewhere; Pandey smartly locates the story in a hotel room that makes the generic-ness of the place feel rooted in reality. But one can’t help but miss the lack of visual flair and, more than that, the little details that enrich much of Pandey’s feature length work.

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