Netflix’s Plan A Plan B review: Not a lot to write home about this one

Plan A Plan B is confused, slow and dated. It has the sprinkling of promise but none of the conviction to become the breezy rom-com it so easily could have been.

Manik Sharma September 30, 2022 15:03:20 IST
Netflix’s Plan A Plan B review: Not a lot to write home about this one

Still from Netflix’s Plan A Plan B

There is a scene in Netflix’s Plan A Plan B where a kid tries to explain to an adult that human hearts might be fragile but they do not break. “Tumne discovery channel nahi dekha,” he says, as a quirky retort. The same kid in another sequence, philosophises about anger. “Why waste it on someone who isn’t there to make you feel better”, he says while sucking a lollipop. Both scenes exemplify the two tenors in which Plan A Plan B exists. A somewhat modern take on the Bollywood romance and the idea of happily-ever-afters, the film serves neither the idea nor the promise of a premise that though tantalising wastes no time in forfeiting its potential.

Plan A Plan B is the story of Kosty, played by Riteish Deshmukh and Nirali played by Tamannaah Bhatia. Kosty is a divorce lawyer who happens to operate out of a co-working space that also hosts Nirali, a matchmaker who believes in bringing people together. The obviousness of the plotline cannot be overstated. The two collide – well somewhat – and the friction of course leads to a few sparks and some more. The film is possibly the easiest to anticipate given its setup is the contested ground of relationships and longevity – a recap of the much more enjoyable The Ugly Truth. None of the humour, the charm or the chemistry of that film, however, is echoed here as everything falls into place as expected, without the slightest hint of life.

Kosty and Nirali are at each other’s throats from the get-go. Kosty is a mannered, cleanliness freak who has his ways of doing things. He is also married, struggling to let go of the relationship, while sleeping with other women at the same time. That absurd contradiction is never really unpeeled beyond its utility for humour. Nirali is a romantic at heart and believes two people can always work things out – a lecture she prematurely delivers to Kosty’s soon-to-be ex-wife. The two clash, often over habits, office spaces, smells and sounds, and things they simply dislike about each other – all of it very plastic and forced. Forget love, even the animosity between the two, which you’d assume would be the easier of the two bits to create, doesn’t exactly translate.

There are some truly bizarre bits in the film. Nirali’s spiritual exercises aimed at getting couples together,are enacted by some of the most disinterested, clueless extras you will see in cinema this year. There could have been a thing or two here about how high society manufactures romance but all of that is lost in the mushy quest for romantic ideals. Kosty’s work, on the other hand, feels far more modest but it is rarely examined beyond its principle position as the argument against Nirali’s. In fact, most of this film is a reminder that better writers could have cooked something far more enjoyable and superior to what has eventually been put together.

Both Bhatia and Deshmukh are serviceable. The latter is especially a missed opportunity because if there is anything Deshmukh has always been good at is his sense of physical comedy. Here, however, he is the suave, nerdy cosmopolitan who dances really well not because it adds to his personality but because it is a trait required to bring him closer to Nirali’s mother. Such arbitrary characterisation which also throws in a couple of needless dance sequences to scream the point across, is the undoing of a film that was probably cast right and then made the exact way that it shouldn’t have been.

There are things to like about Plan A Plan B as well. In moments that Deshmukh is allowed to resort to his version of mime, and borderline overreaction, he is a joy to watch. His relationship with Nirali, doesn’t directly spiral into gooey love right-away, but instead tackles some adult impulses first – a welcome change to Hindi cinema’s meet-cute formula. It’s probably structure that serves as Plan A Plan B’s biggest conceit, suggesting it will dive into the thick of millennial hustle culture and the evolving definition of love between individuals uncommitted to it, unlike heroes and heroines of Bollywood yore. Disappointingly, though, none of that materialises.

Directed by Shashanka Ghosh, Plan A Plan B has a deceptively languid approach to storytelling. It has ideas, but no immediacy or urgency about it. Even its feuds fall flat, its exaggerations flatter to deceive. Kosty’s compulsiveness could have been the source of humour, and in the hands of someone as accomplished as Deshmukh, a foot-in as the highlight, but instead it is relegated to confused flashbacks that his wife has, while on the cusp of divorce. It’s neither here nor there, really and it is just one of the many problems with a film that can often seem like it has struggled with budgeting, has been dragged beyond the finish line, and abandons substance in exchange for gimmicky, 90s soap-era quarrels that struggle to heighten material that has the making of a Plan C.

Manik Sharma writes on art and culture, cinema, books, and everything in between.

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