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

May 22, 2009

Robbing Miss Marple

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 4:37 pm

May 22, 2009

Cast: Ava Mukherjee, Zain Khan, Ankur Nayyar

Director: Romila Mukherjee

Detective Naani, which arrives at the cinemas this weekend, has a title that suggests the movie will be a cute comedy about a feisty grandma blessed with Sherlock Holmes’ crime-solving skills.

If only it were!

It is in reality an excruciatingly unfunny film about a 72-year-old biddy who uncovers a child-kidnapping racket by sniffing around a neighbor’s home, and employing everyone from the local garbage-man to the frisky teenagers in her housing society to gather evidence against the suspicious neighbor.

The premise itself is not entirely a write-off; there is genuine humor to be derived from the situation. But the film’s script – packed with hopeless clichés and contrived dialogue – fails to exploit the central idea in a manner that is either clever or genuinely funny. The characters are all your usual stereotypes, and the protagonist herself is a lame knock-off of Agatha Christie’s iconic fictional heroine, the elderly spinster detective Miss Marple.

The inherent problem with Detective Naani is the filmmaker’s tendency to “cute-fy” the characters and their behavior. Everyone from the precocious kids to the horny teenagers to the ageing grandma seems to have been doused in a vat of sugar syrup so as to come off as extra-sweet and lovable. It doesn’t work.

The amateurish screenplay takes two hours and fifteen odd minutes to fully unfold and by the end, your patience wears very thin. The performances across the board are uninspired, and even the ‘naani’ in question, Ava Mukherjee – who you might remember as the cheery ol’ gran from those ads for Himalay Ayurvedic products – has very little of any consequence to contribute here. More silly than it’s funny, I’ll go with one out of five for director Romila Mukherjee’s Detective Naani. Just surviving it is something of an accomplishment!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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