Mumbai, 25 Oct 2019 9:00 IST
Mikhil Musale's film has humour, good performances and some sparkling dialogues that prop up this delicate comedy about sexual inhibition.
For his debut Hindi feature, Mikhil Musale has taken up a subject that often sends parents scurrying to other rooms and husbands and wives fidgeting nervously, giggling like teenagers. Made In China is a funny and often logical take on the sexual problems faced by many Indian men. While the script ebbs and flows, Musale's film is held together by some solid performances by the cast led by Rajkummar Rao and Boman Irani.
Musale approaches the subject not as one about sexual prowess so much as about the journey of an entrepreneur. The story begins with the shocking death of a Chinese general caused by consuming 'Magic Soup', an Indian aphrodisiac manufactured by Raghuvir Mehta (Rajkummar Rao) and Dr Vardhi (Boman Irani). As the mystery continues over the contents of the soup, the story unravels the journey of the ambitious entrepreneur Raghu and his desire to become a businessman. With the CBI and Chinese authorities on his tail, Raghu narrates the story of how his enterprise began.
Musale crafts the story well, though he takes his time to bring it to a boil, doing so eventually with some brilliant dialogues. The director creates the world of the Gujarati entrepreneur with an eye for detail. Perhaps too much detail, for parts of the first half meander. Regardless, the film recovers. The story and dialogues by Niren Bhatt are worth the meandering.
The story travels between the present and the past and is held together with some skill. The director approaches the story of India's repressed ideas of sexual health through the eyes of an entrepreneur who sees an opportunity. In that, it offers a novel solution to a familiar problem.
Rajkummar Rao is brilliant as the determined and sly Raghu. From his country-bumpkin routine to the Gujarati accent and later, transformation, the actor shows again why he is one of India's best.
He is well complemented by Boman Irani as Dr Vardhi. A take on the famed nonagenarian sexologist Dr Mahinder Watsa, Dr Vardhi is proud, serious, and believes in his work. Irani plays him as a doctor treating a serious medical problem that no one else in India is willing to admit to. His monologues are delivered with power and conviction. In doing so, he grounds the film's framework in realism that is necessary.
In addition to these two, the film is balanced by quite a few impressive performances in spurts. Paresh Rawal walks away with the plaudits as the business whiz who offers Raghu the key to a fortune in the secret, 'the customer is an idiot'. The few scenes of Rawal interacting with Raghu are a hoot.
Sumeet Vyas and Gajraj Rao also deliver competent performances as the scheming duo aggrieved that this golden opportunity has slipped through their fingers. Gajraj Rao, in particular, offers a hilarious presence through his videos. Mouni Roy is impressive as the liberated wife, Rukmani.
The film tackles deftly the issue of Indian society's hesitation to speak about sexual problems. The scenes of Dr Vardhi elaborating on the need to speak about sexual education openly, or the portrayal of the fake babas making hay due to superstitions, are enlightening. However, at times, the film dawdles with the actors playing to the gallery to put the spotlight on sexual health as a medical problem. In doing so, it loses its grip on the engrossing drama that is Raghu's journey.
The climax, when it arrives, is late (no pun intended) and feels overdone. The twist in the tale also feels like an escape from the serious issue on the table. All said and done, Made In China feels like a lightweight, entertaining take on India's continued shyness about sexual health.
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