Chopsticks movie review: Abhay Deol, Mithila Palkar's comedy suffers from half-baked characters, mediocre writing
Being Netflix's first Indian original film production, Chopsticks had some big shoes to fill in. Director Sachin Yardi's vision for the film is on point as it is ahead of Yardi's previous works, C Kkompany (2008) and Kyaa Super Kool Hai Hum (2012) by miles.
Threatening to border on the absurd, the film opens with Nirma Sahastrabuddhe (Mithila Palkar) trying to deal with life through her nervous blinks and self-help audiotape, calmly guiding her with pithy sayings. 'Nirma' is an immediate plot-connector, piquing audience curiosity into the character's possible history. She explains later that her father got into a washing powder agency at the time of her birth.
Nirma has little going for her. Her unpolished, clumsy ways hinder her career graph. She looks on as her more 'presentable' colleagues bag important deals while she is left touring Dharavi (a slum in Mumbai) with a group from China. Her persistent mother insists she listen to the self-help tapes and increase her negligible self esteem.
However, within this bleak picture, Nirma finds momentary solace in purchasing her first new car. An obvious pushover, she is later tricked into handing the car-keys for a supposed pay-and-park. Nirma is later hurt, shocked and troubled to discover that the receipt given to her is of a public urinal instead.
After the police are of no help, she manages to get Artist's (aka Shashwat Menon, played by Abhay Deol) contact. Deol's character easily brings in the sharp (and necessary) contrast to Nirma's hesitance. Artist is quick, witty, talented (he cooks as a hobby and breaks safes for a profession), and wears only crisp white shirts. He is a perfect blend of intelligence and the nonchalance.
After a convoluted cat-and-mouse chase, Artist helps Nirma retrieve her stolen car from the indomitable Faiyaz bhai (Vijay Raaz). Possibly the best screen presence in Chopsticks, Raaz is both endearing and hilarious. His love for Baahubali (his pet goat) may give audiences major FOMO moments of spending quality time with their fathers. Raaz's versatility shines through his sulking, mumbling scenes. He draws the biggest laughs when Faiyaz forces a noted singer to become his personal radio whenever he pleases.
When Animal Planet comes down to film his beloved goat, Faiyaz explains Baahubali's meaning to the foreign couple. "Baahu means arm and bali means strong." "Oh, like Neil Armstrong," says the man. Raaz responds to the statement with a (fabulous) flabbergasted expression, after which his cronies duly note, "Bhai, shayad Neil Nitin Mukesh (Indian actor) ki baat kar rahe hai." (Brother they must be talking about Neil Nitin Mukesh).
Such hysterical moments are aplenty in Chopsticks, peppered throughout its sinuous narrative.
When asked what motivated him to take up a digital film, Abhay Deol told Grazia that he loved the script and that Sachin was adept at upholding sorrow, which is the fundamental brick while performing comedy.
Unfortunately, the brilliance of a quirky script lies only on paper, that too in a Hindi cinescape that has successfully produced gems like Delhi Belly, Go Goa Gone, Being Cyrus and the like.
Yardi's treatment of characters is half-baked to say the least. Both Nirma and Artist are idiosyncratic, a fact that could be milked to bring out poignant humour — she nervously fiddles with her fingers while he only dresses in white shirts and black pants. Artist's introduction as the cold, isolated charmer, living in an under-construction building, is dishonest. Neither do the makers delve into Artist's character much — what got him here, why does he love cooking, why is he so invested in Nirma's shoddy case when he could rob loaded safes — these are only a few of the multiple questions that remain unanswered in Chopsticks.
If instead Yardi's aim was to introduce an element of abruptness or intrigue with Deol's role, he fails to achieve even that. It is mostly because the audience are not invested in Artist to begin with. Deol's efforts notwithstanding, Artist remains an incomplete creation.
Nirma's part is comparatively well fleshed out. But her reformation still stands unjustified. For someone who suffers from confidence issues and is used to facing rejections, a stolen car is not enough impetus for her to drastically change in a few days, so much so that she quits her job. Palkar brings in slight moments of pleasure but is generally too squeaky to like. Her character creates minimal impact, barring the occasional moments of sympathy. Palkar fails to evoke emotional connect even after Nirma's transformation.
The pair of chopsticks which Nirma struggles with in the beginning is the clear MacGuffin. Though Artist lovingly teaches her how to use them, she rejects them at the end, choosing to use her hands instead — probably the one moment which stands out in the hurried resolution of the film.
The editing by Unnikrishnan PP could have been crisper, as its latter half is wrought with unnecessary characters and plot meanderings. Pradeep Mukhopadhyay does a commendable job with the music score in Chopsticks. Rahul Awate's writing comes from an honest place, though its translation on screen is lost on the audience.
In a coming-of-age narrative, produced by a streaming service known for dolling out class content, Chopsticks misses the mark and falls short of creating any considerable impression on viewers' minds except for maybe a light, forgettable watch.
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Updated Date: May 31, 2019 11:58:31 IST