Director: Rosshan Andrrews
Writer: Naveen Bhasskar
Cast: Nivin Pauly, Aju Varghese, Saiju Kurus
Rosshan Andrrews’ new film, written by Naveen Bhasskar, is a timid attempt at the Rajkumar Hirani formula. An eccentric man goes on to become the catalyst for change in people around him, by making them lose conventional inhibitions laid down by the society at large. There’s also the classic search for a long-lost friend. But the problem here is that the film has the emotional depth of an early teenager’s Pinterest board.
Saturday Night wants to make a point of not losing the inner child in you. But it starts doing this so very early on, that even the coming-together of these grown men feels unbearably silly. Their hangouts, and the mischief they try to manage are all too juvenile to root for, especially in a film that’s wanting to touch upon darker topics such as loneliness and addiction. All the silliness that permeates the length and breadth of the narrative stops you from taking the conflicts as seriously as the film makes them out to be.
Stanley (an uninspiring Nivin Pauly) is a manchild who will wait for his wayward friends to get settled before he accepts a lucrative job offer for himself. Sunil (Aju Varghese) will instigate his friend to break into a woman’s house to make a move on her? Another guy wanted to impregnate his girlfriend just to get married to her? When the beats that lead to the primary conflicts are this immature and morally off-scale, how do we root for the protagonists’ journey to get to unrelated epiphanies?
The film is aimed at the sensibilities of those that the internet likes to call “90s kids”, or a rather closeted generation that lives by a limiting code, but at the same time, it carries a gaze that makes a caricature out of the very progressive generation whose worldview it wants to put forth. The depiction of people undergoing group therapy, and nomads, stops just short of coming across as cartoons. There’s the overpainted vehicle, the dreadlocks person, Bob Marley-esque music, etc. These are humans too, how about we tap into that beyond their physical aesthetic? Or probably at least give a glimpse into why this happens to be their aesthetic?
But this is not a film that wants to understand counterculture as much as it wants to merely depict it. “Live free, live young” says a lyric, “friendship is the new madness” says a text card, “peace” is something the characters keep seeing, you get the routine. What makes it all the more awkward is how the actors don’t quite feel at home with these distant eccentricities. There are moments where there’s a usage of slow-mo to ramp up the emotions, but they made me feel zilch. There’s also a lot of momentum in the music to make the dramatic moments more potent, but it’s felt neither in the story nor in the performances.
One can sense that the film is going to take a dark turn at some point, and when it does, it makes for the most interesting stretch in the story. A man who fears loneliness spirals into a tryst with drugs when he’s abandoned by all the people he loves. But even the timing of this portion feels lazy, coming in the form of a Second Half Flashback™.
Stanley’s mental health is not in place, but the way the makers gloss over this is questionable, given how they want to attribute an aesthetic to this character’s situation and make him espouse cathartic wisdom about losing inhibitions. Let’s not get started about the privileges that these characters come from to afford to be this unhinged. This is a film that wants to literalise “being free” every step of the way, with annoyingly over-the-top and repetitive character quirks. It becomes a tedious watch for its random subplots, chases with no payoffs, and a severe dullness across its board of characters. We’ve had far better on-the-road bromances from our country.