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Sixteen review: Audacious but messed-up!

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The first thought that ran through this writer's head was the film's good, but could have been so much better.

Trailing a bunch of friends in high school, the film tries tackling myriad issues.

One of the students Tanisha (Wamiqa) lives with her aunt. Her parents passed away and she considers herself a jinx. The aunt-niece team has recently welcomed a new paying guest.

A writer, the 32-year old, twice the age of Tanisha, creepily begins to display an interest in her. And in a Lolita twist, it turns into a love triangle.

Then you have a young couple making out - the boy wants to go all the way, the girl Nidhi (Mehak) says not yet. And that's their bone of contention.

The more street-smart among them Anu (Izabelle) is going through family issues of her own, while Ashwin (Highphill) is suffering an abusive father.

At age 16, these kids scoff when asked if this is their first crush, smoke away while claiming to know what's best for them, are worldly-wise, and still terribly innocent in a way that only non-adults can be.

Celebrating 'Happy Unvirginity', helping each other through crisis, crying on each other's shoulders, and celebrating the other's success - the film shows Tanisha, Anu and Nidhi face the tribulations that come with this age.

Co-writer and director Raj Purohit dares to venture where few filmmakers bother to go, but that done, he doesn't quite know what to do with the story.

The Tanisha-PG story had potential and turns out to be the most disappointing, as the director actually saves the creepy uncle with a sob-story 'justification' for his unacceptable behaviour. And sorry, courting a 16-year-old kid with an excuse that he "enjoys her company" just doesn't cut it.

The Nidhi track is also confusing. She refuses to go all the way with her boyfriend, which is fine, but finally apologises for it and succumbs to pressure. But when things go wrong, her parents' response is touching and reflective of the parents of today.

Anu's track involves an MMS, but again her attitude towards it is hardly cowardly. She refuses to run away, and prefers to wait for the mess to die down, even making a self-derogatory joke about it. Why then, did the director have to show her contemplating suicide?

The technical specs are below-par. The dubbing is off at several places. The acting is bad - most of the kids just about manage to say their lines, but it's charming in an odd sort of way. The childish tone, for example, with which Nidhi speaks is reminiscent of the way kids that age sound. Wamiqa Gabbi who plays Tanisha, is the only one who displays solid potential as an actor.

Purohit knows how to breathe life into his characters. We want to believe in each of his protagonists and root for them. Moments like proposing over ice-cream, a friend buying a pregnancy detection kit for a friend, the protagonists discussing boys and parents are delightful.

Purohit also refuses let the audience judge his characters. This refreshing lack of judgment on these characters that you will certainly not see in a Karan-Johar candy-floss movie, is refreshing!

Sadly his hold on the story is not that strong. With each story the director messes up - whether its justifying the Creepy Uncle, making the girl apologise for wanting more time, or showing a strong character wanting to end her life.

The finale is as cliched as they come. So the film ends up being delightfully audacious but also messed-up, pretty much like some of its characters.

On the bright side - some great characters, delving into some very interesting issues, the camaraderie and the non-judgmental stance make it a worthwhile watch.

Rating: 2.5 stars


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