Flip review: Bejoy Nambiar brings together four edgy and engaging stories in this web anthology

Kusumita Das

Apr 01, 2019 10:06:37 IST

We all know by now that Bejoy Nambiar has a penchant for the edgy. This is not a man who will tell you a tale the straight way. We hardly imagined that a story about a group of spoilt youngsters could remotely look like it did in Shaitaan; or a crime drama as stylised as David; or a game of chess as twisted as Wazir. Nambiar has always been a master of twists, not only as a plot element but also in how he serves it to his audience. With Flip, his debut web anthology currently streaming on Eros Now, he continues to go off the beaten track. But it only partially pays off.

Flip review: Bejoy Nambiar brings together four edgy and engaging stories in this web anthology

A poster of Bejoy Nambiar's Flip. Twitter

The anthology of four stories opens with The Hunt, which unravels a dystopian scenario of what might happen if a game like PUBG tore through the screen and came to life. Fans of Black Mirror might be tempted to draw comparisons. The 45-minute long episode does tend to drag at times, but, the riveting performances keeps us going. Set in a massive terrain resembling a tropical rainforest, The Hunt is a theatre of killings. The more you kill, the higher your score, except that you are killing humans here. It is structured like a video game which even takes us behind the scenes. It is a while before we sink our teeth into the bizarre happenings and the repeated violence adds to the monotony. Had it not been for Jai Oza’s cinematography, it would have made for a tedious watch. Oza trains his camera across sweeping forests and rivers, artfully capturing the chase. A blood-soaked Sheetal Menon is terrifying as key hunter Reza, and she is ably supported by Naman Shaw and Aditi Vasudev. That the story does not go deep into the many possible meanings of the hunter and its prey, is a letdown. However, it does take Flip off to a creepy if not a satisfying start.

From homicidal jungles into the mind of a bully that once was — the second story is a complete change of scene. Bully opens with an eerie visual of a figure standing under a shower, clad from head to toe in a deer costume. Raghu, played by Ranvir Shorey, appears to be a classic case of a pushover, stripped off a voice of his own, which has led him to this moment where he finds himself under the shower, in an animal costume. The story addresses the trauma of ragging and how lasting its impact can be. Raghu was once a classic bully until a ghastly ragging experience leaves him defeated for life. Shorey is at his best living the internal struggles of his character and he makes you truly feel sorry for him, until he takes you completely by surprise. The visuals in Bully are far creepier than the sequences they represent  a device common in Nambiar’s creations. The director keeps the narrative compact at 24 minutes, as the plot races towards a cruel irony, peppered with a wicked humour.

If there is one story in the series that matches the creep quotient that was promised to us, it is Massage. It starts off as a love story that is clearly too rosy to belong to the Flip universe. Yes, we know this paradise is short-lived, but what actually transpires we never see coming. Keki, played by Jim Sarbh, is a young man in his 20s hopelessly in love with his childhood sweetheart Firdaus (Sandeepa Dhar). Playing the third wheel in their story is Navzar (Viraf Patel). Wedding bells are ringing when things take a complete U-turn at a freak “happy ending” massage session. A love story takes a freakish turn as Keki finds himself on the other side of a 20-year long coma. Massage will be remembered for Sarbh’s performance, which could well be his career-best. The actor completely sheds his lover boy image as he slips into the mold of a post-coma, paralysed patient. Nambiar messes with your mind and how, as things take a tragicomic turn and you do not know who or what to believe. Patel is impressive as the crooked Navzar, Dhar does her bit too and the squabbles between the three will draw a few chuckles, the tragedy of the situation notwithstanding. This is Nambiar at the top of his game.

The high of Massage takes a nosedive with the last story, Happy Birthday, where even the talented Arjun Mathur fails to liven things up. The actor plays Shiv, who is haunted by a family curse, wherein all the fathers in the family die on their son’s fourth birthday, the reason he has chosen not to become a father. But there could be more than he knows. We follow a perplexed Mathur over the course of one evening and several flashbacks, as he desperately tries to save himself from what he thinks is inevitable. The plot is haphazard and the conclusion is rushed. Directed by Aman Sachdeva, the story tries to be a little too clever but in the end, it is just ho-hum.

The series is titled Flip, with the intention of every story doing a complete flip, catching us off guard. Nambiar only partially achieves that. The director, however, manages to show how one doesn’t need to overdo nudity and violence (just because they can) in order to stand out. Nambiar remains restrained but in no way does he water down things. A few more chills would have made this a real winner, but he still makes it worth your while.

Rating: ***

Updated Date: Apr 01, 2019 17:13:39 IST