Director: Shashanka Ghosh
Writers: Parveez Sheikh, Aseem Arrora
Cast: Kartik Aaryan, Alaya F
Freddy is socially awkward, stunted, creepy, needy, tone-deaf and a bit of a lunatic. And that's just the film. Its protagonist is worse. He’s an…introvert. Which, in the grand tradition of mainstream cinema, implies that he’s cuckoo and the world is to blame for this. Victim of circumstances. Tragic past. Mean society. Bad dates. You get the gist. Like social drinkers, movie introverts are social villains: Being murderous and mad is not an unhealthy habit; it’s just a fun thing to do from time to time. It loosens their personality up, and they suddenly become clever and coherent. It’s also because the people they kill are bigger villains. So even though they are positively deranged, they’re actually morally sound – the human equivalent of terribly crafted movies sporting a “heart in the right place”.
Kartik Aaryan plays Freddy as an extension of his Love Aaj Kal (2020) character – where social awkwardness looks like an exotic physical illness. You can see, almost touch, the acting. It’s the Aamir Khan syndrome, except Freddy is a romantic thriller that’s given the Disney treatment. Which means the movie often becomes an unintentional parody of itself. Everyone and everything is a caricature. Including the setting – a performative MTV version of Mumbai’s Parsi community, whose idiosyncrasies are milked to the point of slander. (Being Cyrus (2005) will go bonkers). It’s almost as if the makers dipped into a treasure chest of comic-book cliches and went with the cheapest ones.
For instance, Freddy Ginwala is a lonely dental surgeon whose hobby is painting miniature planes. He has a pet tortoise called Hardy. His aunt infantilises him more than the film infantilises mental health. He scares away potential matches at a local cafe by looking at their cleavage and fumbling through introductions. Even the waiters feel sorry for him. Freddy is what happens when Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’s Surinder Sahni enlists Haseen Dillruba’s Rishu’s help to find his Tani partner in a big city only for his dissociative personality disorder to flare up in the worst ways. Freddy orders falooda (because “izzat ka falooda”) at every doomed date. He falls for a damsel in distress, Kainaz Irani (an over-the-top Alaya F), whose abusive husband behaves like he’s a 1970s’ baddie stuck in a 2022 tragedy. On spotting her bruises, Freddy’s mercury rises. He must rescue her.
This is still the tolerable part of the film. So far, Freddy was only gently going downhill. (Never mind that a murder happens on a ‘deserted’ Mumbai street, which is only slightly more believable than a murder happening in a Virar-bound local at any given time of night or day). But post-interval, Freddy plunges into the depths of Fida-infested hell. Without giving too much away, let me just say that the second half – which features a jilted introvert’s revenge – plays out like a tonal hybrid of Home Alone and Saw. It becomes the sort of campy, Disney-fied mess where Freddy dances alone in the mist because apparently that’s what sociopaths do when they’re happy. Where booby traps dominate the allegedly dark premise. Where a restaurant gets called out on Zomato for a lizard in its food only days after its owners assault a customer in public. Where vada-pav-eating cops are only a tad brighter than Freddy’s tortoise. Where a female character written by men ditches her virginal salwar suits for skimpy satin shorts and low-cut singlets the moment she reveals her ‘true colours’. Fortunately, no cigarette dangles from her amoral lips. Though she’s never too far away from a beer.
This half also features a muscular male suitor, who can best be described as a Parsi iteration of Jab We Met’s Anshuman. Despite resembling a college bully who is auditioning for the role of a college bully, this young man is often a heartbeat away from sounding like Rustom’s old father in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. and yelling “carrom ramvanu, juice pivanu, majja ni life!”. In other words, he’s a slow-motion car crash of cultural appropriation – gory to see but impossible to look away from. When a cop refers to him as “protein shake,” I laughed louder than I should have. When he reacts in accented shock to a life-or-death situation, I nearly howled. Only, it’s unclear if he’s spoofy by design or just poor filmmaking. The same can be said about Freddy in general. As an introvert myself, I should be offended. But I’m weirdly flattered, because the film is so clumsy that it might convince humans to stay away from (freaks like) me. Isn’t that the dream?
Freddy is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.