What Are The Odds? movie review: This ambitious film on Netflix is a delirious pleasure, till the madness withers out
Director: Megha Ramaswamy
Language: English (with bits of Hindi)
What are the odds that when you are drinking on the terrace of a Mumbai high-rise, you will witness a man about to jump off from the edge? What are the odds that he reveals he was actually taking a leak to nourish the soil on the ledge for plantation? And what are the odds he introduces himself as Amol Palekar?
This is just a sample of the hallucinatory ride that Megha Ramaswamy's film What Are The Odds? offers. She does not have any answers in store, as the question mark at the end of the title suggests. After making you question the logic of the scenarios she throws at us, and exclaim at the antics of the oddball characters that pop up in the film, What Are The Odds? does end on a warm, comforting note.
What Are The Odds? revolves around two school students, Vivek (Yashaswini Dayama) and Ashwin (Karanvir Malhotra). As Abhay Deol's voiceover in the trailer suggests, these two represent polar-opposite sections of the classroom. While Vivek is a regular back-bencher, Ashwin is the school headboy. Both happen to be the only two students who get ousted from a scholarship exam because the invigilator cannot find their admit cards. And thus starts their adventurous journey together.
Their union is treated like a combustible chemical reaction between two incompatible elements. The reaction opens up a box of outlandish oddities, like a goldfish talking in Jugal Hansraj's voice and a tree chasing them in the jungle. I will save the adventures for when you watch the film because beyond those, the film has little to offer.
Several random parts of Megha's rich imagination are strung together to make a loose narrative. These explain the title of the film but they never come into a coherent whole to underline the central conflict of the film. Maybe the lack of coherency was intentional? I would give in to that possibility only if the madness was consistent. The narrative tilts towards logic whenever it is convenient, and distances itself from insanity whenever it pleases.
The relief is that the eccentricities present themselves in a much lighter vein. The atmospherics are not as trippy as Akshat Verma's Kaalakaandi or as unhinged as Prakash Kovelamudi's Judgementall Hai Kya. There is no trace of a black comedy. Johan Heurlin Aidt's cinematography, Sagar Desai's background score, Arindam Ghatak's editing, and Smriti Chauhan's costume design are kept in tune with the slice-of-life genre, possibly to combat the inherently maniacal direction and writing.
While the situations are painfully constructed as bizarre, the characters are not fully etched out. They are primarily used as tools to introduce the delirious world in Megha's head. In the start and the end, the film seems like a character-driven drama but whatever lies between both ends contradicts that perception.
The film had the potential to be a sumptuous coming-of-age film. Vivek's character had all the conflicts, insecurities, misplaced sense of superiority, and the endearing quality that the genre demands. But so much thought and effort go into the treatment that the characters are left high and dry.
The scenarios are also so weird that you end up scratching your head rather than indulging in laughter, shock or suspense. By the time the climactic high arrives, you have taken off on your own flight of fancy, and do not want to return to what the director aimed to convey.
Yashaswini has made her presence felt in supporting roles in Pawan Kriplani's 2016 psychological horror Phobia, Gauri Shinde's 2016 coming-of-age film Dear Zindagi, Amazon Prime Video India Original show Made in Heaven, and most recently, short film Devi. But in What Are The Odds?, she gets the meaty protagonist part. With an amiable presence and delightfully erratic energy, she proves she can make the most of a substantial, challenging lead role if given a chance.
Karanvir Malhotra, who was earlier seen in Netflix India Original show Selection Day and Kabir Khan's Amazon Prime Video India Original show The Forgotten Army, gets a better chance at establishing himself as a talent to watch out for in the future. He does not disappoint, and matches Yashaswini's verve with disarming charm.
Contrary to popular belief, Abhay Deol has little to do in the film. He plays a band vocalist, and revealing anything else would be criminal to his already underutilised stint in the film. Worse, Sulabha Arya, Manu Rishi Chadha, Monica Dogra, and Priyanka Bose have even less significant parts to play here.
Shimit Amin and Dhruv Sehgal are credited as creative producers of the show. The two creators have told far more engaging stories in the past, such as the Little Things franchise, Chak De! India, Ab Tak Chhappan, and Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year. Given the fiercely imaginative canvas of the show, Megha Ramaswamy may have made a promising directorial debut but she could have done with some tips on storytelling from her two creative collaborators.
Lunacy is plentiful in What Are The Odds? but the film is neither consistently fun nor a telling insight into the heads of the oddballs.
What Are The Odds? is streaming on Netflix.
Rating: 2.75 stars
Updated Date: May 20, 2020 14:08:35 IST
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