Director: Parambrata Chatterjee
Cast: Parambrata Chatterjee, Emona Enabula, Ritabhari Chakraborty, Saswata Chatterjee, Paran Bandopadhyay
Streaming on: Zee5
Tiki Taka starts not bad then quickly becomes terrible until it gets unbearable and ultimately frustrating. Even the not-bad five minutes in the beginning feel full of warnings in retrospect. When two teenagers (Riddhi Sen and Surangana Bandopadhyay) approach Raju, a shady-but-good-hearted cab driver in Kolkata, he mistakes them as kids who want to avail his clandestine service of providing his car to couples looking for a quickie. When the girl says that they want something else from him, Raju thinks she is asking him to join them for a threesome. They turn out to be budding filmmakers (self-reflexive!) who want him to tell them about his friendship with a Senegalese man called Khelechi—a stupid wordplay to begin with, but more on that later.
It’s also of some significance that the man ‘steering’ this vehicle is Parambrata Chatterjee (overdoing the whole Tapori thing by a mile), who directs and stars in the film (meta!) written by Shouvik Banerjee and Rohan Ghose. You choose to overlook Chatterjee’s brown-face—Do actors have to opt for a brown face when they play characters with hardscrabble lives? Should the brown face go?—that gets even more jarring once Khelechi, who is a black man, enters the picture. It’s going to be a joyride, you suppose, but it’s an endless bad trip that gets progressively worse. Tiki Taka is the kind of film that you give up on in 20 minutes, but since as a reviewer you don’t have that choice, you soldier on.
It’s difficult to sit down to analyse what is wrong with it. One answer is everything: from the tonal shifts that change from the hysterically high-pitched to sentimental cut-aways to the way the characters say their lines to the relentless background score from which there is simply no respite. At one point, I started fantasising about being able to make the background score disappear. And then I got the idea—it’s true what they say about how desperation pushes you to be inventive–that I could just mute it! But there was the problem of not being able to follow the dialogue. So I had another idea. I could just switch on the subtitles! I considered speed-watching it (but my work ethics forbade me).
If you are still interested in the ‘story’, it involves Khelechi’s hostile reception in the city, where he shuttles between a drug lord (Saswata Chatterjee), cops, and the team managers of Young Bengal and New Bagan (played loudly by Paran Bandopadhyay and Kharaj Mukherjee)—stand-ins for East Bengal and Mohun Bagan–with a little help from Raju and the rookie journalist Bonnie (Ritabhari Chakraborty).
The film treats the character almost like an alien. All black men apparently look the same to the people in Kolkata and this matter is played out for laughs. This could have been material for zany black comedy, if not the sincere, sensitive humaneness of Sudani from Nigeria, the Malayalam film about an African footballer in Kerala. But the film doesn’t wholeheartedly embrace a commercial style either, unlike say, how a Raj Chakraborty is sometimes able to. Tiki Taka has pretensions. It wants to use a famous Baul song reprised by Arijit Singh and flaunt the city’s legendary footballing rivalries without really getting the spirit of either right. It’s all gimmicky, superficial Bangaliana, emblematic of an industry that has become too comfortable with mediocrity.
The film’s tone-deafness is shocking as it is. The comedian, Kanchan, plays a small time goon who introduces Khelechi to his boss by using a Bengali phrase that puns on the word kalo (Bengali for black). What the film thinks is casual, harmless fun is casual racism, and not fun. One character mishears his surname as Ajgubi (meaning strange). It’s supposed to be hilarious. I don’t know. 2020 is the worst year.