Caution: This is not a review. This is me ranting about this travesty of a film. Also, spoilers ahead. Like MAJOR spoilers. Like this-girl-just-narrated-the-whole-film level spoilers. Like I-have-watched-this-movie or I-have-no-intention-of-ever-watching-this-movie level spoilers.
Since this is Barun Sobti’s first film, and since this blog and my stories exist because he does (no, really, I would never have watched IPK with the guy who was originally going to play ASR), it’s only fair that I dedicate a post to reviewing Main Aur Mr. Riight. (For the record, adding an extra ‘i’ to the title does nothing to improve the film.)
On Monday evening, my mother and I set out for the same mall where an imaginary fangirl had met Arnavji a couple of weeks back. Fitting, no?
Mom: This movie had better not cost me too much money. The movie doesn’t look or sound promising.
Me: Stop being cheap! This is Sobti’s debut. Arnavji’s debut. We are not going to grudge him the ticket money. Even if it’s terrible.
Mom: The things I do for you…
Mom: Are we…the only ones in this theatre?
Me: Er…just at the moment. I’m sure other people will show up soon.
Mom: I have never watched a film where I am the ONLY person in the theatre.
Me: God, Mom, calm down. And so what if we are? Think of it as watching it in your personal theatre.
Mom: Oh, look, more Sobti-fangirls like you. Do you know them?
Me: Ma, I don’t know EVERY Sobti-fangirl. Happy now? We aren’t alone.
Mom: I’d be happier if they played anything other than this god-awful song from PK on loop. Seriously. Make it stop.
Me: Oh look, movie’s beginning.
So Main Aur Mr. Riight was not off to a very auspicious start.
After watching the whole movie carefully, if I were to summarize it in a sentence, I’d choose one word: bizarre.
Main Aur Mr. Riight is easily one of the weirdest movies I’ve seen, and I assure you I’ve seen plenty of weird movies.
Aliya Raj (Shenaz Treasurywala, billed as Shenaz Treasury, for some odd reason) is a successful, independent, wealthy, fashionable, attractive casting director in Bombay. She does yoga early in the morning, eats organic, and “loves her Jimmy Choos and Louis Vuittons because she works bloody hard to earn them.” She is obsessed with perfection and cannot handle a single drooping bloom in a vase of roses in her swanky sea-facing pad. So naturally, this obsession with perfection extends to her personal life as well. She is in her late-twenties/early-thirties (presumably) and is still single. Not because no one wants her (as we’re assured multiple times), but because she doesn’t seem to like anyone she goes on a date with. She rejects one guy she got along fabulously with because he had a few grains of food stuck between his teeth at the end of the meal. No jokes. She insists that no matter how independent and grown-up girls become, they will always dream of an MnB perfect-romantic hero for herself. (God, I really hope not, because MnB heroes are the WORST.) She has an image in her head that no human guy can live up to, as her friends point out multiple times.
Ah, Aliya’s friends. Aliya’s parents died a few years ago and her friends mean everything to her. We are introduced to Shawn (Kavi Shastri)– a wannabe painter, Bani– Aliya’s best friend and Shawn’s fiancé, this guy who is a Gujarati businessman and is permanently on the phone (whose name I can’t remember), Niyati– Gujju guy’s wife, Abhay– I can’t tell what he does, and Diya– Abhay’s “plastic girlfriend whom Aliya cannot stand.”
Aliya informs us with an absolutely straight face, that she and her friends are not your run-of-the-mill city people. “They don’t watch TV, they read books instead. They don’t go to nightclubs, they do brunch.” I don’t know what I’m supposed to make of these qualifications– except that I can tell you I never saw anyone pick up a book for the entire duration of this film.
These thirty-something, settled, ‘book-reading-brunch-eating’, urbane people have one mission in life: get Aliya to settle down. I think they all read MnB’s only, because the level of preoccupation these adults have with Aliya’s personal life is unbelievable. They constantly (I mean constantly) nag and nitpick and try to set her up with people. And they say things like “In 10 years, we will be picking our kids up from school together, and you’ll be the still-single, weird Aliya Aunty.” This is an actual dialogue that I couldn’t have made up if I’d tried.
The whole setup feels like a satire on the lives of the young-and-obscenely-rich that we see in shows and movies all the time. Only, it’s not. The film is being earnest about this.
Just to get her friends off her back, Aliya lies to them and says she’s found her Mr. Right. She randomly pulls a photograph out of her handbag and shows off ‘Hridaan’, her perfect guy. He’s a businessman from London and his family is involved with pharmaceuticals. He plays the guitar and is well-read, well-spoken, good-looking and is basically Mary Poppins: Practically Perfect in Every Way.
I hooted here because Hridaan, the guy in the photograph, the guy who had dropped off his portfolio at Aliya’s office the previous evening without actually showing Aliya his face, is…*drumroll*… Arnavji!
Er…I mean, he is Sukhi– Sukhwinder Singh from The Dalhi who is a wannabe actor, which is why he had dropped his portfolio off.
So anyway, Aliya contacts Sukhi and hires him to play her Perfect Boyfriend for a week or two. She pays him and promises him a role in an upcoming big-shot film, and Sukhi agrees. Over the course of one song, Sukhi loses his Salman-Khan-from-Tere-Naam hair, his Haryanvi accent, his inability to stand still for two minutes, his tactlessness and transforms into…er…Arnav. *sigh* Fine, Hridaan.
Aliya takes him along to various social do’s and introduces him to her friends. Sukhi plays Hridaan perfectly and his innate innocence and goodness slowly exposes how Aliya’s seemingly perfect friends have really dysfunctional lives and are shallow, selfish and immature. Or that, I believe, is what the script said, and what they’d hoped to achieve. Because I could have told you this without Sukhi’s intervention in the first ten minutes.
So anyway, shit happens. We see that Shawn and Bani have issues cos Bani is pregnant (which is why they’re getting married) and Shawn doesn’t feel ready for the baby or for marriage. Gujju businessman and Niyati have problems because he never ever has time for his sweet-gharelu wife and now, Niyati just doesn’t care. She’s started looking for solace outside her farce of a marriage. Abhay and Diya are the weirdest because they both realize that they’re actually in love with Aliya and Hridaan respectively.
…I can’t even.
In between this madness, Aliya finds herself bonding with Sukhi and his peasant-like pursuits like watching movies (gasp!), eating cheap food at shady restaurants (haw!) and getting cheap-thrills from eavesdropping on people’s conversations. I can’t be snarky about that one because while I do that all the time, it is not a polite thing to do.
Then, it’s time for Hridaan to leave. Sukhi has inexplicably fallen for Aliya in the meantime, but knows that Aliya doesn’t feel that way about him. He makes a few half-hearted attempts to stay but Aliya laughs them off.
Things come to a head at Hridaan’s farewell dinner. Sukhi sings a soulful song at the restaurant and everyone is kinda sad and all these couples (encouraged by Hridaan’s soul-searching questions) fight. And then this waiter, who is also a wannabe actor, recognizes Sukhi. The truth comes out and every one gets really mad at Aliya and leaves in a huff, because apparently, Hridaan’s lie is the source of all their problems and not their inherently dysfunctional relationships.
Sukhi leaves and Aliya gets together with Abhay. Her friends stay mad at her for a while and through a sad song and a doing-the-same-things-in-the-same-way-just-in-different-clothes montage, Aliya realizes that something’s missing. She misses Sukhi and tries to bring him back but he is mad at her cos she hadn’t even kept her word about that big movie and now Ranbir Kapoor has the role. He calls out her bullshit and tells her a few hometruths about how her friends and she lie to themselves and each other all the time.
She breaks it off with Abhay who really doesn’t seem to care either way and is now lonelier than ever. Aliya, that is.
On a random platonic date with her young, socially awkward PA, she is hopeless about ever finding her Mr. Right. He convinces her that the perfect guy is not the one who has everything she thinks is attractive, but the one who makes her laugh and cry and whom her heart wants despite all his imperfections.
At this point, you just want to do a slow-clap for Aliya because Sukhi had said the same thing a few hundred times before this but she’d never heeded his word.
She gets some liquid courage, puts on an unfashionable dress that Sukhi had once bought her, and climbs into his window in a sequence strangely reminiscent of Kareena Kapoor climbing into Aamir Khan’s room in 3 Idiots. She tries to tell Sukhi how she feels, but Sukhi tells her to stop being filmy and go home– which she does.
Next thing we know, we’re at Bani’s baby shower. Everyone’s had a change of heart. Shawn wants to marry Bani and is happy about the baby but Bani has now moved on and is okay with being a single mom. Gujju businessman wants his trophy wife back too, but Niyati wants a divorce and is going to marry her childhood sweetheart whom she had reconnected with when her husband was being negligent. Abhay and Diya tentatively become friends again. And of course, everyone forgives Aliya while conceding that their rabid matchmaking may have partially been responsible for her lie.
Then finally, at an audition for the role of the villain in the same film that Aliya had promised Sukhi, we find Aliya restlessly waiting for Sukhi. She’d told him about this audition but it looks like he’s not going to turn up after all. He appears at the very last minute, delivers a heartfelt monologue to the camera, replacing the heroine’s name with ‘Aliya’ and they have a tearful reunion and an awkward almost-kiss.
The movie ends with Aliya talking about how everyone’s much happier and has healthier relationships with themselves and each other and they’re all off ‘following their passions’– whatever they may be.
While the story is straightforward enough, this movie has some BIZARRE issues.
The strangest thing about this movie is, hands down, Aliya’s friends. They are not only dysfunctional, they also have the most public arguments. Even while discussing/disclosing super-personal things like why Bani didn’t get an abortion, and how Niyati is cheating and wants out of her marriage– they do it in front of everyone. And I mean everyone. In public restaurants and stuff!
Like, Bani literally tells Shawn that she could have gotten an abortion but had lied to him and told him it was a health risk for her because she wanted this baby and this marriage, in front of everyone else in a restaurant.
And Shawn too cribs about how he doesn’t want this baby and how he’s stuck and how he hates what is happening, in front of everyone else all the time.
Diya tells Hridaan that she loves him, while she’s drunk, in front of all the others!
I totally get being close to your friends, but this is just creepy.
If that wasn’t strange enough, no one–not even Aliya, questions why so-called Mr. Right is only in town for two weeks. If he’s THAT perfect, why does Aliya never talk about how she’s going to manage a long-distance relationship? I’m not even going to get into the other obvious loopholes and glitches in the Hridaan-story.
Another strange thing is the placement of the songs. They literally appear from nowhere. Yaar Bina, particularly, is so jarring because Sukhi and Aliya are in a car and listening to the radio when the song comes on. It’s Sukhi’s favourite. They stop the car, get out, go and sit down on the stairs of a random building, and then imagine the song playing out in front of them on the street.
I don’t think know WHAT drug makes you trip like that.
Then there was this narrative technique where random montages of different auditions interrupt the story. While some films have very successfully used this technique, some having even broken the fourth-wall and getting actors to talk directly to the audience to get some kind of point across– over here, this makes NO sense. All it does is interrupt the already very choppy flow and incoherent plot.
I told you it was bizarre.
Now here’s the real tragedy.
This film isn’t all bad. It has some honest moments and is even fun (this time, intentionally) in sections. It had potential.
I guess I can see why Sobti chose this film as his debut. I can imagine how this may have appeared as a fun, engaging, even unconventional rom-com on paper.
The two things that REALLY let this movie down are 1) the direction and editing and 2) the ensemble cast.
The film has no logical flow and feels awfully choppy. It jumps from scene to scene with nothing to connect two scenes and most of the time you can’t figure out why characters are doing what they’re doing.
I believe the director, Adeeb Rais, is only 21 years old and this may be part of the problem. This is going to make me sound like a granny, but the handling is terribly immature. The inexperience and lack of vision comes through rather strongly. The characters are tropes and stereotypes, the character arcs are predictable and text-book like, both problems and solutions are simplistic and he has someone or the other (usually Aliya) narrate most things in case we miss it. There is no nuance, no complexity, very little original execution, no depth and nothing is left open to interpretation. Honestly, jokes apart, he may make a watchable film some day, but he needs some serious work before that happens.
Secondly, the cast. OMG. All of them have a fair bit to do and have individual story arcs and distinct characters. There is no polite way to say this. Barring Sobti, they were all terrible. Acting, dialogue delivery, any sort of emoting– it was just awful. I had not an iota of sympathy for any of these book-reading-brunch-eating people and felt like roundly slapping all of them. If you think Perfect Aliya sounds bad, her friends are positively insufferable. Bani blankly puts up with Shawn insulting her publicly for most of the film before doing a volte-face in the end and becoming a single-mom– with no explanation to either situation. Shawn is supposed to be confused, but just comes across as an asshole. Gujju businessman– a bigger one with even less expression. Niyati, the poor little rich girl, reminds me of Meghna from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. She is perhaps the least annoying of the lot– which isn’t saying much. Abhay and Diya seemed to be competing for the Actor With Poorest Dialogue Delivery Award.
While Shenaz is definitely better than her friends, she too leaves a LOT to be desired considering Aliya is the central character of this movie. I have no sympathy at all for her. It’s not that Aliya is annoying (which she is), but that after a point, you’re completely indifferent. Aliya just doesn’t hold you as the protagonist. In fact, you don’t even get why Sukhi falls for Aliya!
Now, I’m going to come to my favourite part about this film: Sukhi.
I admit, when I’d seen the trailers, I hadn’t been very optimistic about this one. That Tere Naam look, the forced mannerisms, the god-awful clothes, even the supposed transformation– none of it had appealed to me.
But surprisingly, Sobti does a really good job as Sukhi.
In the film, Sukhi isn’t annoying at all. In fact, he’s endearing and genuinely funny. Sobti has a distinct flair for comedy and he plays that mix of brash, funny, honest, vulnerable and sweet REALLY well. I had almost forgotten why I used to like watching him on screen. He is just incredibly convincing as Sukhi.
Of course, I have a soft spot for Arnavji, so I wasn’t happy with my own evaluation.
Then this conversation took place:
Me: So…what do you think? About Sobti, I mean, since we can agree that the film was just strange. Am I being a fangirl or was he really good?
Mum: No, you’re not being a fangirl. Sobti was the one good thing about this otherwise-random movie.
Me: We’ve seen worse.
Mum: We have. But this could have been so much better.
So there you go, folks. MAMR was largely a sucky movie with a few genuine moments and Sobti was a pleasure to watch. If you miss Sobti terribly, by all means watch it. But do take along someone you can laugh at all the absurdity with.
Also, don’t worry, this isn’t turning into a Sobti-fan-blog (it always was that). I’ll be back with fiction soon.
(This awful movie is on Netflix as of June 2017.)