Mama’s Boys, a short directed by Delhi Belly writer Akshat Verma, is a forgettable satire
Director: Akshat Verma
Rating: 2 stars
If there was ever a case of how short filmmaking/writing requires a completely skill set – a diagonally different grasp of storytelling, mediums, narrative grammar, templates, genres and beats – Akshat Verma’s 16-minute long Mama’s Boys will be listed as a cautionary example. The long-missing-in-action writer of Delhi Belly turns director with this obviously satirical effort, one that seems designed to court controversy to market its cheeky content.
‘Mahabharata in 2016’ is a winning tagline, more so if it’s the childhood-shaping sub-story of Kunti, her five Pandava sons and the ‘shared’ Draupadi. So we get famous mythological characters in full attire navigating today’s kitchens, stores, gyms and living rooms, embracing contemporary slang and mannerisms, which is perhaps conceptually the entire joke. One keeps waiting for it to take off, but even the introduction of the late iconic Razzak Khan as Shakuni Mama doesn’t propel things beyond the “interrr-resstinggg” drawl stage.
To criticize it by noting the Bollywood-Dresswala costumes or amateur skit-toned visuals is self-defeating, and one of the few inherent plusses of the spoofing business. If nothing works artistically, it’s deliberate, or so they say.
But I’m not quite sure Verma intends it to be a parody, or to even let us wonder if the TVF or AIB guys may have pulled this off far more effectively as an irreverent video. There is little more to it by way of actual cinema, unlike, say, other environment-hybrid titles like Baz Luhrmann’s electric Romeo+Juliet (bullets-and-mafia 1996 gangland with Shakespearian dialogue), its recent zombie adaptation Warm Bodies or even Anurag Kashyap’s steel-glassed Dev.D.
Eventually, the giggles begin and end with Verma’s willingness to ruffle juvenile feathers; Nakul (Vivaan Shah) and Sahdev (Jim Sarbh; miles from his Neerja hijacker act) as gay-designer caricatures and Yudhisthir (Akshay Oberoi) as a drug-addled gambling addict are things you’d imagine townie college kids coming up with for their annual festivals. Aditi Rao Hydari as a seductive and Lolita-ish Draupadi is most symbolic of the film’s perpetual I’m-so-witty smirk.
Maybe the most entertainment one can derive out of this is the way various religious-sentiment-hurting cases will pile up. While Delhi Belly remains a genuine landscape-altering comedy (it’s a different matter that nobody has bothered to capitalize on its smarts), Mama’s Boys can best be remembered – and forgotten – as a troubled offspring conceived in the backseat of a smoky social-media car.