A remixed Narendra Modi announcing demonetization — when overnight Rs 500 and Rs 1000 bills ceased to be legal tender — keeps popping up as the background score of Cash, when the characters are trying to convert their black money to white money. The intention is comedy, but the impact is grisly, almost haunting. There is Armaan Gulati (Amol Parashar, fresh off the success of playing Bhagat Singh in Sardar Udham), the “paidaishi CEO”, son of Vijay Gulati, guest lecturer at IIT — Indu Institute Of Technology — and nephew of Sanjay Gulati, a corrupt customs agent. Armaan’s startups are a who’s who of failed ideas that are at best, outrageous. Take his idea to protect women, where if a woman screams “Bachao”, the gun will shoot out wires charged with electric shocks. This invention keeps popping through the film, referenced till the end in a way that implies its success on a narrative level, even if it is a failure otherwise.
Cash makes sure we recognize that Armaan isn’t stupid. He is charming, enterprising but is more confident than he is intelligent, and thus paves his own downfall. When demonetization strikes, Armaan, along with his friend Vivek (Kavin Dave), and Neha (Smriti Kalra, making her film debut) decide to make a quick buck by converting black money to white money. A complicated scheme is hatched, and soon oddballs begin populating the edges of the story. The tonality is satire, comedy, so it never descends into the emotional entanglements of a socio-political disaster.
To be clear, the film isn’t an indictment of the blindsiding, sledgehammer move by the PM. But it subtly makes its points, by satirizing what supporters of demonetization were parroting — from invoking soldiers at the border, to the alleged chip inside the 2000 Rs note, to the people fainting in lines in front of the ATM. (When a man faints, mouthing words in his heat struck delirium, some men around him think he is saying “Paani Paani”, while others think he is saying “Money Money”) This allows the film, written by Aarsh Vora and Rishab Seth, to be light on its feet. There is no drama, even as the world it is set in is populated with dramatic impulses and possibilities. There is even a love triangle — Armaan, Vivek, and Neha — that is resolved with a comedic snap of a finger. This movie has no place for jealousy or heartbreak as anything but an exaggerated gesture.
This is because the film, apart from Armaan and Neha, is populated with “types” and not “people” — the masochistic gunda, the corrupt politician (Gulshan Grover), the superstitious finance guy, the punctual inspector, the excessively Tamilian inventor. This, again, allows the film to not wallow in sentiments, and instead the plot is preoccupied with the serpentine scheming to get the money converted before the 2-hour runtime. It is here that the film falters, stemmed by its illogical, loopy incoherence, and yet buoyed by the charm of its leads.