Many prominent filmmakers and experts stress on the need for a good story for a film to work. I am no expert but from my experience, I have gathered that it’s the execution that matters the most. There are films boasting of waferthin plots but still manage to win hearts because of effective direction. On the other hand, there are films like, case in point Nautanki Saala, that have the advantage of a brilliant concept. But, Rohan Sippy’s direction somehow fails to engage, especially in the second half. A film that could have been a mad quirky and feel good ride turns out to be just an average fare!
The story of the movie: Ram Parmar aka RP (Ayushmann Khurrana) is a theatre actor-director and plays the role of Raavan in the very popular play, Raavanleela. One night, while on his way to meet his girlfriend Chitra (Gaelyn Mendonca), he comes across Mandar (Kunaal Roy Kapur) who is all set to commit suicide. RP saves his life and learns that Mandar is depressed thanks to his breakup with his very beautiful but easily manipulative girlfriend, Nandini (Pooja Salvi). RP also learns that Mandar is a good actor and persuades the play producer, Chandra (Sanjeev Bhatt), to let him play the role of Lord Rama. On the other hand, RP gets curious about Nandini and meets her in her floral shop and falls for her. Things take a bad turn as RP builds mountains of lies to avoid a confrontation with Chitra, Mandar and Nandini.
The Raavanleela play forms a great backdrop to the story and also the manner in which parallels are drawn between RP and his character Raavan is praiseworthy. Besides, the first half is quite a fun ride. Things do get slightly unconvincing, especially how RP goes all out to help Mandar and buys bouquets worth a bomb. However, the fun moments in this hour overpowers the minuses in a significant manner. Unfortunately, things fall like a pack of cards in the second half. The confused RP and his confused actions leave audiences in a daze. One fails to understand what’s exactly happening and who loves whom. Nandini initially seemed quite a cute character but as the film progresses, one gets startled with her fickle-mindedness. Not convincing! The director and his writers tried to attempt something novel in the climax but again, it was hardly impressive.
Performances thankfully are sans complaints. Ayushmann Khurrana once again proves his worth and delivers a performance as brilliant as in his debut film, Vicky Donor. The actor has terrific screen presence and it’s applauding how he steals thunder in every scene. Hats off! Kunaal Roy Kapur too shows brilliance and has an unparalleled comic timing. His chemistry with Ayushmann is worth a watch. Gaelyn Mendonca was confident but wished she had much more to do in the second half. Pooja Salvi looks like an angel and gives a decent performance. Sanjeev Bhatt raises lot of laughs in several scenes. Evelyn Sharma (who supposedly has a role in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani too) does well in small role. Rufy Khan (Loli) is strictly okay. Sulbha Arya (Mandar’s grandmother) was funny in her cameo. Abhishek Bachchan was wasted.
Music of the film (and its presentation) is a major strength and one of the significant reasons why the interest in the film doesn’t wear off during the weak portions. Saadi Galli Aaja is the best of the lot followed by So Gaya Yeh Jahan, Dramebaaz and Dil Ki Toh Lag Gayi. Background score too makes a nice impact. Nipun Dharmadhikari, Charu Dutt Acharya and Rohan Sippy’s screenplay is great initially but falls at later stages. Dialogues however are competent and witty. Rohan Sippy’s direction deserves praise for once again (after Bluffmaster) portraying Mumbai in a stylized fashion. The drama portions are filmed in the majestic Liberty Cinema of Mumbai which in fact is a character in itself! Songs are beautifully depicted too. But unfortunately, he fails to hold interest in the second half. The film was anyways unconvincing from the very start but in the second half, it crosses limits. Rohan Sippy is no doubt a great filmmaker and here’s hoping his next project doesn’t let down!
On the whole, Nautanki Saala is equipped with an impressive storyline, quirky characters, and lively music score and not to forget, the theatre backdrop but unconvincing situations and confused actions of characters in the later part of the film spoil it all. At best, an average fare!