O.k., let me come clean with you.
I have a teeny, tiny crush on Ritesh Deshmukh. It’s nothing serious, and I was thrilled to see him recently in as good a movie as Bluffmaster (especially given some of his other films, like Out of Control), but this – ahem – minor affliction does cause me to sit through some movies I’d otherwise pass on.
Which is how I came to pick Mr. ya Miss off the shelf last week at the local rental place. After the disc loaded on the player and the credits started to roll, I really wanted to like this movie, Ritesh aside. I mean, it was made by a woman: the screenplay is by Antara Mali, she was also one of the directors and the lead actress, not something you see much in mainstream Hindi cinema, but oh dear, what a silly mess of a movie.
The story is basically a Bollywood version of Switch, written and directed by Blake Edwards, except in this case, instead of Jimmy Smits as the womanizing boor dying and coming back as Ellen Barkin, it’s Aftab Shivdasani (ho hum) and Antara Mali.
Sanjay Patel (Aftab) is a caricature, wolf-whistling at women (and I thought the maintenance guy in my building was the only one who still did that) and juggling multiple girlfriends at once, telling them all the same lines and lies, often while leaving his buddy, Shekar (Ritesh), forgotten and waiting for him. After one sleazy move too many, he is confronted by three of his girls, and in a fit of pique one of them, Lavleen, clocks him on the back of the head with a statue and kills him. Standing before Lord Shiva and Parvati, like the fast-talker he always has been, he begs them for mercy, and they resolve to send him back, as a woman, so that he can appreciate how truly great we really are, and not just for our bodies.
Sanjay is now Sanjana, the supposed half-sister, who shows up at his workplace, and starts to see, with the idiot colleague, Verma, who keeps dropping his pen so he can peek under the girls’ skirts, what it’s like to be on the receiving end of his kind of behaviour. Sanjana has to get outfitted in more gender-appropriate clothes than Sanjay’s pants and shirts, but I must say, her choice of clothes, especially for someone so sensitive about adjusting to her new body, is confusing. She appears in a variety of low-cut shirts and short skirts and heels.
And this is one place where the movie fails badly: Antara Mali’s interpretation of a man who’s come back as a woman trying to figure out how to walk (literally) in women’s shoes. She goes way over the top, lurching about and grabbing onto furniture as if she were on a violently listing ship in a storm. Not just that, she goes on like this way too long. This is one of the frustrations of Hindi movies for me, this taking a physical trait and overexaggerating it, hitting the moviegoers over the head with it repeatedly, like Rani Mukherjee’s Chaplinesque gait in Black.
Then there’s the long hair. Sanjana may be a big exec at a PR firm, but she can’t figure out how to work a chip clip and hold her hair back off her face. Add to that the weird facial expressions (that bring to mind Silvio on The Sopranos), and it’s just awful.
So, Sanjana stumbles on, getting to be close pals with Shekar (who has no idea who he’s really with), and trying to reel in a big client at the firm, one who turns out to find her very attractive and goes to many lengths to get his hands on her. And on and on.
Shekar and Sanjana get really drunk one night and – guess what – end up in bed together, resulting in her getting pregnant. This one plot point was actually a rather bold move, one that Blake Edwards didn’t dare touch in Switch. I mean, a guy who sleeps with his best friend who is a guy trapped in the body of the girl, does that qualify as a homosexual experience?
More confusion ensues when Sanjay’s dead body appears on a beach and Sanjana finds herself charged with the crime, thanks to Lavleen’s lying in the courtroom. Do you relly care how it all turns out, as if you couldn’t guess? I didn’t think so.
Interesting note: the use of the sari. It appears only twice in the film. First, Sanjana has to go to a party at the client’s house and wants to wear something to cover herself up, and the choice is a red sari, in which she does look lovely. The second time is when the lying Lavleen (who normally wears short, short skirts and tight, tight blouses) wants to be perceived as a demure, credible woman in the courtroom, she shows up in a pink sari in one scene and a yellow one in another, both times with blouses with Mandarin collars.
The only saving graces of this film, for me, are few. There’s the song Kamzin Kali, which shows Shekar and Sanjana in a variety of costumes and romantic poses. It’s the only time in the whole movie that Antara Mali gets to look like a woman comfortable in her own skin (and with a small tatoo on her right shoulder), and Ritesh looks particularly fetching in a brown and turquoise striped shirt running on the beach.
And then there’s Ritesh, in all his Tweety Bird-lipped glory. I found some of his outfits in Bluffmaster too accesorized for my liking, but in this movie, the costume department gets him just right. First, they have him in some genuinely attractive shirt and tie combinations. Then, they have him sporting these gorgeous Cary Grant/YSL eyeglasses, which suit his face and frame his eyes just fine. And then there’s the hair, not too short, not too poofy, and the most perfectly sculpted sideburns, not too wide, not too thin.
See it or skip it?
Skip it. Bas.