A few days back, I revisited DevD. Yes, Anurag Kashyap dared to give Devdas an edgy spin nobody would imagine, but Abhay Deol was the man of the moment. Behind the arrogant Dev who drowned himself in drugs was an extremely vulnerable person. You must be wondering why I am showering praises on an actor who is barely seen on the big screen these days. Well, I just watched Chopsticks, Abhay Deol’s latest film, which will premiere on Netflix on 31 May, and there’s one question that haunts me – is this the same actor who has been a part of immensely likeable films like Oye Lucky Lucky Oye and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara?
Sachin Yardi (director of the insufferable C Kkompany) conjures a plot that you hope will take you somewhere.
Meet sweet Nirma aka Mithila Palkar, a Mandarin translator attached to a star hotel. Superstitions are a part and parcel of her nature, so when she waits in the showroom to take her brand new Hyundai i10 home, worry overshadows excitement the moment she sees that the digits in the number plate add up to 11. She rattles off – the Twin Towers fell on the 11 September, there were 258 passengers on the aircraft that crashed etc, etc (an 11th born sheds a few tears).
Armed with her brand-new car and words of motivation (literally), Nirma heads to the Mahalaxmi temple to seek God’s blessings. She accepts a person’s offer to park the car, only to regret it minutes later because he turns out to be a con.
She runs to the police station, but, of course the cops won’t help because they are more equipped to crack washing powder jokes. So, in steps safe-jacker Mr Artist aka Abhay Deol, Nirma’s only hope. Artist is always clad in black trousers and white shirt, but his character has shades of grey. He unlocks a safe just by reading the manual, lives in an abandoned building, but has given his kitchen a five-star finish, because hidden in the facade of a thief is a talented cook who knows his spices.
Artist and Nirma team up to find her car, leading them to a ‘gangster’ Faizal bhai (Vijay Raaz), whose dearest companion is a... goat named Baahubali.
Baahubali (sorry, Prabhas) is gearing up for an animal fight, so he only eats organic food. Villain Mithun was obsessed with Ekta Kapoor’s weepies in C Kkompany, and all Vijay Raaz does is think about Baahubali winning the fight. Incidentally, Raaz also has Nirma’s stolen car, and therefore we wait for a surprise-mixed-with-humour kind of climax. Which. Never. Comes.
Instead, we are served with an ending so stale that even Artist’s fresh recipes leave a sour taste in our mouths.
Abhay Deol does try to redeem the sloppy script with his comic timing, but even the jokes fall flat after a few laughs.
Also, his character is so replaceable that the moment I exited the theatre, all I took with me was one impressive scene where he stands in a crowded Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, only to realise how exposed feels the man who is forever in hiding. How I yearn for the raw energy of Dev!
Mithila Palkar has nothing new to offer in Chopsticks. An under-confident Nirma struggles to eat with chopsticks to blend with the Chinese guests, and tries hard to polish her English as she interacts with her boss and snooty colleagues. However, her ‘ba-owls (bowl)’ and ‘work outings’ always land her in Dharavi and Dhobi Talao, where foreign tourists ogle at India’s poverty. Mithila shines as Nirma in parts, but we are waiting to see her get over the sweet girl image and try something new and exciting.
Let’s come to Vijay Raaz. He never disappoints us, and his character is reminiscent of Nana Patekar from Welcome. Both are terrific actors, both punish people by making them run on treadmills, and both have managed to pull off the poker-faced humour in their respective films with impressive conviction.
The film does try to take a stand against animal fights and has some stray elements, but it lacks a crucial thing that the audience of 2019 is hungry for – a tight script. Rather than naming dogs Chicken Pox and Cholera, and linking Neil Armstrong with Baahubali just because “arms strong”, some intelligence would have been a lot more appreciated. After all, chopsticks are no fun without some spicy, tasty food to bite into!
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