'Fredrick' review: Even the talented Prashant Narayanan can't save this thriller
The most intriguing aspect of this 129-minute psychological thriller is its title. 'Who is Fredrick?' is also a question that is oft repeated during this convoluted tale of damage, greed, lust and general stupidity.
Writer-director Rajesh Butalia gets off the starting block with promise. We see a 16-year-old boy playfully experimenting with his mother’s make up and jewelry, trying on her lip gloss and bangles and admiring himself in the mirror when in walk’s the alpha male father.
Disgusted and judgmental, he throws his son Maanav out of the house for being a freak. Later the father (Rajesh Khera) tracks down his son and his ‘close’ friend Fredrick. A nasty fight follows even as Maanav pleads with his father to leave Fredrick alone, because he loves him. But the fight worsens and ends tragically.
The events of that day change the life of the one surviving character forever. The trailer did give a hint of one of the sub-textual themes of the film, but nothing prepares you for what lies ahead.
We jump forward 19 years, so a suspended Intelligence Bureau operative lying severely injured in a hospital bed. His seniors from the Bureau have travelled from Mumbai to Mussoorie and are quizzing him on why he is there and what transpired.
Vikram/ Avinash (Avinash Dhyani, permanently troubled and tousled) takes us back in time, step by step. The non-linear screenplay is so unconventional, it’s darned confusing. We go back in time a little bit and then a lot and then come back to the not so distant past and then we are back in the hospital room where Avinash is teetering on the brink of death.
We are told that Vikram and his wife Amrita (Tulna Butalia), both agents with the bureau, go undercover to Mussoorie to track down a human trafficking network that has kidnapped Vikram’s sister. Expectedly the plan goes awry, but as Vikram/ Avinash (he is referred to by both names in the film) gets closer to the core of the crime, all clues lead him to someone called Fredrick.
However Butalia’s laborious storytelling punctures the thriller narrative by the mistimed interjection of songs, which are all picturised similarly – a man wandering lost and confused on mountainsides. By the time he’s finished his second aimless song-soaked montage you have lost interest in figuring out who Fredrick is.
You do await the arrival of Prashant Narayanan hoping that his reputation for quirky interpretations of characters will add some energy to the ashen experience thus far. Indeed, he does bring some fizz, but is so aware of the close up shots that his face twitches in awkward ways and one sees flashes of his Murder 2 character. You wonder if a cross-dressing scene can be expected.
Two weeks ago, we had a gentle take on the gay theme in Dear Dad, and before that Aligarh and Kapoor & Sons. It certainly is a shocker that this psychological thriller is built on the idea of a lost love and a misunderstood gay boy psychosis. It’s obvious that Narayanan is Maanav and Fredrick, his schizophrenic alter ego. But if there is a suspense-revelation or ‘wow’ moment in the film, it’s the bizarre connection between Vikram/ Avinash and Maanav/ Fredrick.
In one scene, as Amrita suggests this doomed plan to track down the gang and find Vikram’s missing sister, he exclaims at the potential risk in the plan to which she replies, “Sometimes only stupid things work.” But do they?