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Review English (India)

What Are The Odds? review: Sweet, surreal coming-of-age journey that goes nowhere

Release Date: 20 May 2020 / 01hr 36min

Cinestaan Rating

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Shriram Iyengar

Megha Ramaswamy's feature feels like a whimsical short story that throws up some unexpected images and surreal moments that surround its teenage drama.

Snow in Mumbai. Talking goldfish. Hugging bears. Old people in red jackets dancing in the middle of the street. Dwarves in an artist's lab. And a girl named Vivek. Megha Ramaswamy's debut feature has all the makings of a surreal, hallucinatory journey but without the hangover that follows. A whimsical tale of two teenagers playing hooky on their exam day, the story is a flight of fancy that moves through time and space but gets nowhere.

Vivek (Yashaswini Dayama) is a rebellious teenager who writes 'not love songs', reads Dickens, and has a poster of Oscar Wilde in her little apartment. With all the existentialism of a 20th century French philosopher, she decides to not give her exam. Cue her meeting with Ashwin (Karanvir Malhotra) who is the complete opposite of Vivek with his sombre, stable ideas. What are the odds? one might say.

The film has a very Wes Anderson-like take on the journey of two teenagers as they give vent to their angst, experience and thoughts in their day's journey. Set to the background of some lovely Indipop songs by Sagar Desai, the film does feel like an enjoyable magical ride. Except that it has no sense of a plot.

Abhay Deol turns up as a pop star stealing a teenage girl's affections and her lyrics. Manu Rishi Chadha turns up as an eccentric goofball Rimpu in search of a smile. There are some interesting conversations born in the moment that seek to speak of higher things than crushes and careers.

While they all feel surreal and magical, the two key characters feel too superficial to have an immediate effect on you. Their conversations, despite the subject, feel trivial and dismissive.

Whimsical as the journey is, it is captured in colour and style. There is very much an element of a pop album-meets-art in the cinematography (John Heurlin Aidt) and visuals. Both Yashaswini Dayama and Karanvir Malhotra do the best with the characters they have, but they are written too thinly. Abhay Deol makes an appearance as the pop star Val with an entourage but is just as frivolous as the rest of the story. His character could have made for an interesting addition or the root to this wandering wispy drama, but that does not happen.

Despite the oddball nature of the film, it has a goofy, loitering story that makes for a decent watch on a boring summer day. It might not make sense, but not all stories do.

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