M Cream review: More lows than highs in this ‘stoner’ indie
Agneya Singh would like his debut feature film to be identified as a stoner movie, and for the first hour it is that – with joints being passed around as a group of Delhi students sit around in a circle at a farmhouse party. The scene is shot like American TV comedy That ‘70s Show: the camera moving around from one smoker to the next.
Singh’s ‘experimental’ film opens at this party with a long one-shot take that establishes the scene. It then settles over this group of smokers, primarily Figs (Imaad Shah), Jay (Ira Dubey), Niz (Raaghav Chanana) and Maggie (Auritra Ghosh). Pretentiousness abounds now as they speak in awkwardly complete sentences, sounding like they are quoting literature textbooks. New acquaintances Figs and Jay get locked in a battle of wits and ideologies – she’s a bleeding heart debating society sort moved by the plight of the Tibetan people; he’s an aimless, unkempt, rebellious society scion pretentiously named Figaro who is happy swigging rum (or anything) straight from the bottle. Figs and Maggie are the lazy rebels who trivialize the causes Jay and Niz are passionate about. “What's your deal?” Jay asks Figs, to which he replies, “Mujhe sirf charas se pyaar hai.”
When the local supplier runs out of ‘maal’, this foursome sets off on a road trip to Himachal Pradesh where the quest for a mythical, ultimate drug (M Cream) turns into an activist story about development, destruction as much as a exploration of arrival and discovery. The open-top jeep’s first stop is Dharamshala where Jay and Niz are on some sort of assignment connected with the Free Tibet movement. That done, they head to the source of the cream, but go off course and end up at a commune or leftover hippies headed by a portly American called Vishnu Das (Barry John). An LSD trip and a moon rave follow leading to drama and a splitting up of the group. Jay and Figs are now free to make their own journey which leads them to a against a resort development that threatens to destroy an entire village and its surrounding habitat.
Finally Jay and Figs remain confused, but no longer is a drug-induced haze. It’s the young characters, however, who are more well-etched while the adults come across as caricatures right from Figs’s parents played by Tom Alter and Lushin Dubey to Barry John’s Vishnu with a highly questionable Southern American drawl. It’s hard to ignore the clichés even though Mingjue Hu’s camerawork frames some pretty pictures.
But pretention and heavy stylistic influences from western cinema and television abound which often become comical. The English dialogues are largely stilted and Singh tries to pack in too many issues in. On the upside, he does craft the scenes of intoxication and headiness with authenticity, whether a rave or a LSD trip.
Imaad Shah pulls out all his acting tricks but gets repetitive in his mannerisms and sloppy awkwardness. Niz and Maggie’s characters are the most consistent while Jay’s is played nice and understatedly by Ira Dubey. One does wonder though: how the girls manage to look so well groomed throughout the road journey.
The quest for this elusive drug is the net by which you are lured you in and then starts unloading the plight of the Tibetan refugees, destruction of indigenous communities and their habitats, corruption, and how its not good enough to say ‘what can I do about it’? In the end M Cream is more issue-oriented than stoner.
Updated Date: Jul 22, 2016 16:04:57 IST