Characters with odd names is a common comedy shtick. In this Netflix India original, we have an underconfident girl called Nirma (Mithila Palkar) and an overconfident conman who calls himself ‘Artist’ (Abhay Deol).
Girl’s car gets stolen; ‘Artist’ comes into the picture like a knight in shining armor. We don’t know much about his background or why he lives in a ramshackle home with a swanky kitchen straight out of Interior Design magazines. We also don’t know why he chooses to help her.
She gets his number through a stranger, and that’s how they meet. The film then takes us through their journey— going into Mumbai’s murky areas, encountering the professional car lifting nexus, a comical underworld don, and his much-loved pet goat Bahubali.
All through the story, Nirma flutters around Artist clutching her bag close, nervous energy intact, and shaking her head obediently like a child in a classroom. I suppose some people find this kind of child-like behavior in grown women endearing. I found it to be preposterously out-of-sync with 25-year-olds of today.
When Artist, condescending as always, points out that she mispronounced the word salmon and asks her to get a refund from her school, she says seriously, “It’s been so long. They won’t refund my money now.” So not only is she portrayed as being underconfident, but also dull.
She looks up to Artist, hanging on to his every word, and calling him ‘sir’. At that moment, one hoped the film would avoid the clichéd romantic angle and let them have a their ‘protégé-mentor’ or even the ‘unlikely friends’ equation. A romance seemed odd considering the huge age-gap and that they came from dramatically different backgrounds (she the goody-two- shoes girl being bullied by everyone; he the suave criminal). But the film sticks to the predictable outcome.
In helping get the car back and inspiring her to overcome fears at the same time, Artist invades her space more than once. It’s disturbing how he grabs her hand and yanks her towards the edge of a building at one point, and also breaks into her home. All this is perfectly normal behavior, we are to believe.
Thankfully, towards the end, she holds her own and comes up with a plan to escape the mess she got herself into.
The narrative style of the character seeing written slogans, like— ‘Dum hai to cross kar, varna bardasht kar’ is cute but gets repetitive after a while. Lead actors Abhay Deol and Mithila Palkar shine despite the half-baked characters.
The genuinely funny moments come from gangster Vijay Raaz’s fondness for pet goat Bahubali. He throws lavish birthday parties for the goat (where he slaps the caterer for serving mutton as that could hurt Bahubali’s feelings), and makes sure the pet eats only “orjanic” vegetables.
Sadly, these fun moments, are too few and far between. This film could have been so much more.
Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra2