Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

February 23, 2007

Goa, goa, gone!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 7:01 pm

February 23, 2007

Cast: Shabana Azmi, Boman Irani, Kay Kay Menon, Raima Sen, Amisha Patel, Abhay Deol, Minisha Lamba, Ranvir Shorey, Dia Mirza, Sandya Mridul

Director: Reema Kagti

Give me a quirky little film by a new director and chances are I’m going to fall for it. A new voice and a new storytelling format – what more can you ask for? It’s what drew me to films like Hyderabad Blues, Jhankaar Beats, Dil Chahta Hai, and Khosla Ka Ghoslaamong others. Which is why I’ve really been looking forward to Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd by debutant Reema Kagti.

Now this film’s about a road trip actually, a bus journey to Goa that’s taken by six honeymooning couples who’re just about getting to know each other. That’s pretty much all I can tell you about this film, because that’s pretty much there is to this film — I don’t mean that in a negative sense, but clearly this is a character-driven story so if you’re looking for a plot, or a conventional three-act structure then you’re looking in the wrong place.

As the couples in this film start getting to know each other better, some pleasant, some unpleasant truths come tumbling out. For us in the audience, watching this film unspool, what we’re getting really is a character study, a glimpse at human nature — yes, that’s really what this film is about. People, what they seem like on the outside, and what they really are on the inside.

What I enjoyed most about Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd were its characters. Despite the fact that director Reema Kagti plays upon the oldest clichés and reinforces lots of stereotypes when she gives you such typical caricatures as the inseparable Parsi couple, the conservative Bengali husband or the very determined Punjabi bride, what you cannot deny is the fact that all these characters are relatable in some way or the other.

Of course, because it’s the characters driving the film, it’s up to the actors playing the leads to draw you into their lives in order to keep you engaged. Abhay Deol and Minisha Lamba playing Aspi and Zara, the made-for-each-other Parsi couple, are exceptionally entertaining as they go from “oh they’re so cute” to “god, they’re so irritatingly perfect”. For years we’ve complained about Amisha Patel’s theatrical, over-the-top kind of acting, but in this film that works in her favour since she’s cast as a spoilt, talkative, dreamy-eyed romantic who can’t stop fussing over her meek husband played by Karan Khanna. Vikram Chatwal as the NRI who marries Sandhya Mridul for all the wrong reasons could do with some acting lessons, in fact he could take them from Sandhya herself who’s a fine actor.

Ranvir Shorey and Dia Mirza as the doomed Gujarati couple are first-rate but it’s a pity they have such little screen time. Pity because Ranvir just steals the show every moment that he’s on screen and you can’t seem to understand why they’d terminate his character so early in the story. One of my favourite couples in the film are the Bengali newly-weds Kay Kay Menon and Raima Sen, perhaps the only couple who really go through a relationship arc in the film as they deal with insecurities and other personal issues and finally come out knowing each other much better. Both Kay Kay and Raima perform superbly, like real flesh and blood characters in a heap of somewhat cardboard caricatures.

And finally, there’s Boman Irani and Shabana Azmi as the oldest couple of honeymooners, who’re just a class apart for the depth, the believability and the emotional resonance they are able to find in their roles. A word here has to be said for Boman Irani who not only physically transforms himself into Oscar Fernandes, but actually becomes the character courtesy the little nuances, the accent, the dialogue delivery that he invests into the role.

Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd starts off as a joyride filled with beautiful little moments that suggest the lady at the helm, director Reema Kagti is an observant and perceptive writer. Like the scene in which Kay Kay Menon encourages his wife Raima to indulge her desire to go parasurfing in a saree, and then gets all embarrassed when her saree comes loose mid-air. Or then the scene between Boman and Shabana where he grabs her and kisses her impulsively in the middle of the street right after a teary memory.

It’s little moments like these, peppered throughout the film that really make you smile because they’re heartfelt and funny. But about forty minutes into the film, you notice the director’s losing her grip on the story. The whole track about one husband hiding his superhero identity from his wife, then being pleasantly surprised when she makes a revelation of her own is just ridiculous. I’m sorry, that doesn’t fit into this film. Funny it may be, but it sticks out like a sore thumb because this isn’t one of those suspend-your-disbelief kind of fantasy films.

Even the gay angle – I’ll buy the bit about the guy who gets married as a front, but then the bit about the second guy finding himself being attracted to this one – that’s a bit too far-fetched. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it can’t happen. I’m just saying it seems like it’s been forced into the film. Which brings me to what I think is the real problem with this picture. I think the director started off on the right note but didn’t know how to tie it all up. I think she may have felt like she’s established her characters, but now what, so let’s try to add some drama. Sadly, it’s here where she loses her audience because everytime she shifts the spotlight from her main characters and their relationships, she ends up taking the wrong step.

Like the whole angle of Boman’s rebellious daughter, or the Gujarati girl who elopes with her lover and how that track reunites with the main story. All of these portions seem forced and unnecessary and they don’t fit in easily into the screenplay.

Because it’s a fairly original premise and because most actors perform competently, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd isn’t exactly an ordeal to endure. It does help that the film’s only about two hours long, so even the portions that jar don’t exactly drive you to desperate measures.

There are many moments of pleasure to be derived from this film, but in the end when you leave the cinema, you feel like you don’t exactly know where this film was heading. An ending that’s too abrupt, a narrative that goes haywire midway, and a sense of confusion looming large over the second half — it’s problems like these that come in the way of this film realizing its full potential.

I’m going to go with two out of five for Reema Kagti’s Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd. You won’t hate it, but don’t expect to come out dancing. It’s a strictly average film that could have been so much more.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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