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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 

 

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Odd Couple, Review: Tying the not

Odd Couple, Review: Tying the not

It’s nice to be taken by surprise, especially if the film is not a suspense thriller. And Odd Couple does just that. Borrowing its title from the 1965 Neil Simon comedy play, The Odd Couple, made into a film (1968) starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, in which one of the two bosom friends does all the household chores that you would normally associate with a woman, this film has the man, of a man-woman couple, doing the laundry and the cooking, and the woman doing pretty much nothing. Weighed down by an easy, odd title (they could have come up with something better), the makers have not one but two…three…no, four couples, and the word ‘odd’ can apply, very broadly, to all of them. The film did not need the add-ons and the side-tracks that are padded on, for its basic premise is strong enough. Having taken a very bold stance, it then leaves everything open. That is a let-down, as are the numerous co-incidences that act as crutches for an able-bodied work. Worth a watch.

Due to a clerical or typographical error, the wives of Piyush (26) and Yogesh (42), a painter have been swapped. Both are named Nivedita, though the surname of one is Verma and the other’s, Rao. Nivedita Rao (24)’s pet-name is Navi, and she is in a live in relationship with entrepreneur, Piyush, who wants to launch a food-start-up that will supply lakhs of Mumbai residents with lunch tiffins at the low, low price of Rs. 26. He is the woman of the house, and Navi enjoys being spoilt, being the daughter of a billionaire. Yogesh and Nivedita (39, a translator of literary works) were married, till, eight years ago, when, one night, Yogesh packed his bags and inexplicably left for Berlin. Seven years later, they were legally divorced, since the law states that if a spouse is absent or missing for seven years or more, the marriage is declared null and void.

Both these couples decide to get married on the same day. In the case of Piyush and Navi, it is the logical step, since they have had a long courtship. For Yogesh and Nivedita, it is a bit complex. Yogesh wants to acquire a piece of property, for nostalgic reasons, but cannot, because he is now a German citizen. Re-marrying Nivedita will get him the property, which he will purchase in her name. Moreover, it appears that Nivedita’s anger has thawed and Yogesh has mellowed down too. That is how these two couples land-up in the Marriage Registrar’s office, after completing due formalities, and sign the Marriage Certificates. They fail to spot the bloomer, which pairs Piyush with Nivedita and Yogesh with Navi. And the only way they can reverse the act is by spending some time as the mis-matched husbands and wives, and then asking for divorce.

Web searches do not show any previous efforts of story-writer Praneet Verma, and his co-writer, Prashant Jouhari. Screenplay and dialogue come from the pen of Jouhari, who is also the director. For a debut, Odd Couple is promising indeed. Lyrics are meaningful. The dependence on co-incidences and the insertion of facetious sub-plots was quite unnecessary, though that would mean a reduction in length by at least 22 minutes, which rather than mar, would enhance the overall effect of the film. I mention the figure because the duration of the film is indicated as 121.56 minutes in one place and 118 minutes in another. 100 minutes would have been ideal. Perhaps the makers have made voluntary cuts of 3 min. 56 sec. in order to get a UA certificate. Honestly, the film should have been given and A certificate, for Adults only, with all the content intact. A case is made for Biharis, who are very often stereo-typed and pigeon-holed by non Biharis. But what about the Sardarjee (Sunny) who plays the advocate? He is as type-cast as can be.

Language has a generous dose of double entendre and surrogate sexual innuendo, mainly from Piyush and the Sunny. In fact, the entire Sunny and his wife track is in bad taste and a joke carried too far, playing on 11 o’clock, which might be another surrogate reference. On the other hand, the apparent inability of Piyush to intonate certain sounds in Hindustani has a very clever twist, one of the surprises that catches you off-guard. Except for Navi’s father, no family-member of any of the other main characters is either shown or referred to. Two Niveditas living in the same building and getting married on the same day, in court, is very hard to digest. The cat-fight between Navi and her friend Reet, on the street, is not justified enough by the reasons advanced later.

Judge, advocate and tea-boy are seen more often as caricatures than realistic, and so is the case in Odd Couple. That the Marriage Registrar, who got the couple married, is promoted to a Judge of the Family Court, and is officiating when the couples’ divorce case comes-up, is another co-incidence that takes some believing. But the twist given to the basic premise of the story, in the second half, and leading-up to the end, is worth applauding, and enough to carry the film on its own. One shot that Jouhari takes of Navi, late at night, in bed, with camera slowly panning, is worth remembering. And just for the record, there is nothing titillating about it.

Divyenndu as Piyush has grown as an actor, even in comparison to Shukranu, though both were made at the same time. Yet, a few characteristics remain: his slightly shrill, loud voice and a general monotone of dialogue delivery. This helps in attaining clarity but does not help modulation. Getting him to speak with the accent heard in certain parts of Bihar, and then having him speak perfectly clear Hindi, when the situation arises, is a tour de force. Singer-actress Suchitra Krishnmoorthi plays Nivedita Verma, and it was nice to see the rarely seen actress on screen, essaying a carefully studied role, though largely uni-dimensional. This is only her second role in since 2011.

The amply talented Vijay Raaz is cast as Yogesh Pant, and he proves that all the forgettable voice-overs he does are purely for the moolah. Brooding and introverted, a man of few words, he is in his element. Model Pranati Rai Prakash is Navi, the confused, 24- year-old, impulsive girl, who is unable to comprehend what is going on around her. She has done three web series and this is her third feature film. Gifted with beauty/modelling pageant credentials, including Miss Beautiful Legs, not to mention the rest of her figure, she shows limited acting potential. More comfortable in English, she has an infectious laugh.

Stocky Manoj Pahwa is named Chautala and is first the Marriage Registrar and then a Judge at the Family Court. This role is exactly up his street, comic, bordering on the ludicrous. As Sunny, Chirag Singla has the most double-meaning lines, and does not convince as an advocate. Leaving an impression in a role that begins well but slips into poor writing, Saharsh Kumar Shukla as Sudhir, the taxi driver, does a good job. Over-the-top is Sumit Gulati, who we see as a property broker. He seems hardly the person Yogesh would deal with. Another poorly written role. Also in the cast are Neha Negi as Reet, Pradeep Singh Adhikari as the Postman, Vinay Kumar as a waiter, Chunmun Yadav as the tea boy-cum-court ‘agent’ and Satyakam Anand as the Embassy Officer. Name of the actor who plays Navi’s father was not available.

There is a name in the credit tiles that is the same as a senior film-maker’s: editor Prakash Jha, though I doubt it could be him. Both Prakash and Jha are common names in Bihar. A lot of footage is spent on street shots and establishing Mumbai, time and again. Moreover, the film is definitely too long. Music by Jay Rajesh Arya is of an acceptable standard while cinematography by Srijit Basu makes good use of lighting. The film was produced under the banner of Nipram Creations, rights were bought by Shemaroo Entertainment and its digital distributor is Panorama studios. It was seen on a Vimeo link provided by Ashwani Shukla of Altair Media, the Public Relations Agency of the film. Odd Couple is already being shown on the OTT platform Amazon Prime Video. It was first seen at the Jagran Film Festival in 2019, which makes it three years old. Never mind. The film has not really aged.

Nor many would dare to make films on Freudian (Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who propounded an extensive theory about sexuality, based on several case studies; he died in 1939) concepts. The closest they got was in When Harry Met Sally. Odd Couple goes one step further and raises a very pertinent question: are men and women monogamous by definition, or, is it possible to feel attracted, both mentally and physically, to another person, after having been married, or in love, with one? Though the Odd Couple only examines a situation where tying the (k)not does not necessarily mean that you will never fall in love again, that too in a slightly comic vein, it is a revolutionary step. That it does not have the guts and gumption to go the whole hog is evident by the ending, but the bravado must be welcomed.

Rating: ***

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3O7cBiKUQM

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

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