SOMEWHERE DURING THE interminable party that forms the core of Saurabh Shukla’s new film, a gangly man with wild hair (real-life theatreperson Makarand Deshpande) is chatting up a giggly housewife. He’s just announced his deep interest in palmistry when her uncouth lout of a husband plonks himself between them and demands that his palm be read. “I can tell you three things,” says the faux-palmist. “One, you haven’t got what you deserve.” “True,” says the loutish man. “Two, it’ll stay like this for some time.” “And then?” asks the loutish man. “Then? You’ll get used to it.”
That tripartite proclamation sums up the experience of watching Raat Gayi Baat Gayi. Unlike recent Hindi films that have tried to unravel the mating game in contemporary India (Rajat Kapoor’s own Mixed Doubles, a tautly-scripted, charming riff on wife-swapping, or Anil Senior’s over-the-top but endearingly frank Dil Kabaddi, which had the unfair advantage of a Woody Allen script, being a scene-by-scene adaptation of Husbands and Wives), Raat Gayi never quite loosens up.
Despite the abundant acting talent from the Rajat Kapoor - Saurabh Shukla stable, the characters are stiff, never seeming comfortable enough in their skins to come close to the required unbuttoning. Kapoor is competent as the middle-aged ad filmmaker who fancies himself a bit of a charmer and isn’t above drunken flirtation, but is petrified when he realises he may have endangered his 14-year-old marriage. Vinay Pathak as the doofus whose cheesy pick-up lines get him nowhere wears a ridiculous peaked cap and is super-annoying. Anuradha Menon and Navneet Nishan aren’t allowed to extend themselves beyond weepy and deliberately obtuse wifeliness, while Neha Dhupia comes across more as petulant than as mysterious femme fatale.
This film can’t decide if it wants to be a thoughtful take on marriage or play the extramarital dalliance for laughs: so a scene where Dhupia’s full-time and part-time lovers are stuck in a cupboard is interrupted by one’s wife calling to ask him to buy olive oil on the way home, which he tenderly does. From Shukla, who’s scripted gems like Satya (1998) and Mithya (2008), this is a disappointment.
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 02, Dated January 16, 2010