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Nautanki Saala! review: Of romance, bromance and a little comedy!

Nautanki Saala
Rohan Sippy
Ayushmann Khurrana, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Abhishek Bachchan, Evelyn Sharma, Pooja Salvi, Gaelyn Mendonca
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The film’s a remake of an averagely rated French comedy Après vous (2003). It’s been dressed up against the backdrop of theatre (instead of the original restaurant backdrop), to give it an interesting canvas. And so we have the larger-than-life, Broadway-style visual splendor— beautiful lighting, elaborate costumes and the story of Ramayana.

RP (Ayushmann Khurrana) the actor-director of RaamLeela a lavish play, is going home to celebrate his girlfriend’s birthday. On the way, he sees a strange sight. A man is attempting to hang himself. RP saves the man from the suicide bid and gets him home.

The man, incoherent and somewhat funny, sticks on the next day and the next. A bromance brews between the two, even as RP starts calling him his BFF (Best Friends Forever).

The suicidal man, Mandar Lele (Kunaal Roy Kapur) is severely heartbroken. RP takes it upon himself to help Mandar reunite with his girlfriend Nandini. And then starts the sad and comical occurrences as a love triangle develops.

The major flaw with the film is we never quite understand why RP puts his job and love-life at risk to help Mandar, who till some time back, was a complete stranger. He gets him a central role – that of Ram— in his production over other deserving hopefuls. This, after Mandar botches up the audition horribly.

It’s hard to imagine a director compromising on the quality of his production to such an extent— all for some weird form of friendship, developed over a few days, and one that relies more on sympathy than an actual fondness of the person. RP ignores the talented aspirants and hires Mandar for the role, completely ruining the show. But far from firing him, RP persists in the same way he persists to get Mandar’s love back.

The girl-in-question Nandini (Pooja Salvi) runs a pretty flower boutique. This leads to more improbable situations. Honestly, RP buying flowers worth thousands of rupees, lying constantly, prioritizing Mandar’s romance over his own, seems a bit of a stretch.

But even if we keep the ‘probability quotient’ aside and accept the film as it is, it’s not entertaining enough. What could have been a deliciously absurd comedy becomes a drudge, especially in the second half. Repetitive situations, conversations and meaningless developments are a downer.

The bright moments are the funny ones. When they meet, RP calls Mandar “horror film” while Mandar calls him a “khoobsoorat insaan”. RP’s encounter with Mandar’s grandmother, who says the funniest lines, is hugely entertaining. According to her, “Jise kuch nahin aata, woh acting karta hai. Aur jise acting bhi nahin aati, woh to director banta hai.” (Those who don’t know anything become actors. Those who don’t even know acting, become directors.) And an Amul hoarding says – ‘Lagg gayi’ when a character’s in trouble. Nice. The audition scene where RP prompts Mandar to speak his dialogue will have you in splits. And then of course, RP is actually Ram Parmar, which fits in symbolically with the way the story unfolds.

The refurbished classic songs – Dhak Dhak and So Gaya Yeh Jahaan – are great fun.

But then that’s it. It’s downhill from there. Nadini’s character is one-dimensional. Her hesitantly whispering voice, eyelash batting, and confused demeanor do nothing to warm us to this character. And then there’s her styling that’s more model-like than businesswoman. Wish the director had given the mini-skirts a break and styled her in a way that resonated with the character.

The financial standing of our characters is also ambiguous. Mandar’s grandmother lives in a modest home in Pune, but post his suicide-bid we see him going to posh salons and eating at expensive restaurants. What does he/did he do for a living? We’ve no idea.

Ayushmann Khurrana (Vicky Donor) is impressive as RP, who lives a life of nautanki both personally and professionally. The actor could have been better groomed though (nose-hair alert!). Kunaal Roy Kapur (Delhi Belly) as Mandar is superb— bringing in vulnerability and humour at once.

Director Rohan Sippy’s (Bluffmaster, Dum Maaro Dum) Nautanki Saala is interesting at a concept-level, but falters as a film. There are classic humorous moments in the film, but few and far between. Try out this film with romance, bromance and a little comedy if you’re in an adventurous mood and willing to give the film a (very) long rope.

Rating: Two and a half stars


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