SAIFF Day 2, Thursday (cont)

Here’s my take on QUARTER LIFE CRISIS by director Kiran Merchant, which I was too tired to post last night.

The theater was packed. Fifty of the seats were reserved for the cast and crew and I was sitting right next to them, so it was amusing to see them laugh at inside jokes (when crew members were in the film etc.) Besides their energy and passion and laughter, there wasn’t much to this film, really. It was a corny and predictable love story of a desi frat boy.

*Warning spoilers*

Neil Desai (Maulik Pancholy) gets dumped by his girlfriend and college sweetheart Angel (Lisa Ray). He gets into a towncar driven by Dilip Kumar (famous comedian, Russell Peters) and lo and behold, he happens to be the 100th customer to ask for a receipt and so ends up free limo service for a week. Neil and his frat-boy buddies, including Johnathan (Manu Narayan from Bombay Dreams) decide to make the most of the week and party it up in the New York single scene. Except this is not really New York’s single scene. Anyone who lives in NY knows that you don’t spend all your time hanging out at Time Square. In fact you spend *zero* time hanging out in Times Square. And speed dating? Sure it exists, but real New Yorkers hang out in bars and clubs downtown. Anyway, all that aside, Neil has various adventures through the week, hooking up with numerous women in the back seat. Through all these episodes, he keeps thinking of Angel and then has a heart to heart with Dilip wondering if he’s lost her for good.

When he finally figures out that she is indeed the one, the TV series “Love in the Back Seat” come on TV with a preview of the show for the next day. Neil is prominently displayed and his antics for the past week are captured by a hidden camera for the world to see. Neil rushes to Dilip and discovers that Dilip is actually a producer who’s been taping all his escapades.

With no chance to kill the show, Neil buys Angel a ring and a house to prove his love. Dilip offers to drive Neil to Angel and of course Neil gets there right as she is watching the show. He gets booted.

Dilip then has the station play the segment of Neil professing his love for Angel, as he keeps Neil in the back seat, downstairs. Angel is touched, moved, picks up the lease and ring and bounds into the car where Dilip tapes their happy reunion.

Ahh… warm and fuzzy feelings… NOT!

The cast was packed with known names — Manu Narayan, Russell Peters and Jackson Loo (as frat buddy Mo) played their roles well. But Lisa Ray, while a very good actress (especially in Water), is in her mid-thirties and did not pass for mid-twenties. To be honest, I am not sure why she did this film — after Water, she had the chance to establish herself as a serious actress and this definitely puts her back in the Bollywood-esque romantic comedy track.

But the biggest issue was with the story itself. Yes, the “Love in the Back Seat” angle was funny and was a little twist, but besides that, it was very predictable and the story was disappointing. The movie was also too “cute” with little pop-ups and bubbles and starbursts appearing on screen to show us what the character was thinking.

On the positive side, the production values were excellent. It was well shot, slick and well packaged. The director and his producer wife, Genevieve Castalino, seem like amazingly nice and friendly people. At the press conference, Kiran was honest enough to admit that there is nothing unique about the story itself. But, it is a huge step to make your first feature and for that, I congratulate him. With the experience of making a feature under his belt, I am sure Kiran will go to onto topics that are closer to his heart.