My Birthday Song review: Incoherent plot and shoddy screenplay fail to light up the narrative

Release Date: 19 Jan 2018 / Rated: A / 01hr 36min

Cinestaan Rating

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Shriram Iyengar

Samir Soni's directorial debut is high on style, and ideas, but lacks the substance that could have transformed it. 

Real sense of mystery or magic comes from not making things invisible, but rather bringing them back. It is here that Samir Soni's My Birthday Song wraps itself into an irretrievable muddle. The director, Samir Soni, manages to create an intricate setting, but complicates it with shoddy screenplay. 

The story begins with Rajiv Kaul (Sanjay Suri), an ad-man with a roving eye, talking to a psychiatrist about his 40th birthday. He remembers meeting Sandy (Nora Fatehi), a mysterious lady in red, and landing in an affair with her. But, an accident occurs and Sandy dies in Rajiv's bed. Terrified, Rajiv ends up consuming an intoxicating combination of pills and alcohol to escape this bad incident.

He wakes up again on the morning of the birthday, only to have the whole incident unfold in front of him, as if on a loop. What follows is a confusing set of events that have no straight set path. This might sound great if it finds a requisite conclusion that makes sense. However, My Birthday Song's end just does not make up for it. 

The screenplay is the prime killer of the film. Soni's directorial debut feature is struggling with an identity crisis. Is it a time loop problem? Is it an elaborate prank? Is it a psychological reminiscence? The answer, when it comes, is a little disappointing. 

The characters are built without much depth or background. While that serves for some mystery, it does not explain their motive. There are points where the script fails to build the tension required, which is a dampener. The occasional diversion into Rajiv's past, which is tied up to the twist, and the over-elaborate plot addition fails to transform the script.

Music is a redeeming point though, but inserting it in the scenes, albeit in the background, does not help the narrative. 

The use of English and Hindi, quite common these days, is a little jarring. The sudden appearance of a poetry-spouting mechanic (Pitobash Tripathy in a cameo) in the middle of nowhere is an example. 

Therein lies the trouble. It is easier to create a whodunnit, but to provide answers to the 'why' is just as important.

From shades of Groundhog Day (1993) or David Fincher's The Game (1997) and the 2013 cult film, Coherence, My Birthday Song carries within it templates of several films. However, it fails to emulate the tightness and intrigue these films generated.

The acting is another sore point. Sanjay Suri, usually on point, is average in his expression of confusion. Nora Fatehi plays the mysterious woman at the centre of the plot, but does not add much aside from her role as a seductress. Zenia Starr, who plays Suri's wife in the film, is another miscast. Then, there is the Hitchcockian appearance of Soni towards the end, which is just another trivia addition at this point. 

My Birthday Song has its moments and an intriguing premise. But the failure to stitch it all together with a tight script, coherent narrative, and smooth editing ends up making it a messy mix.