Cast: Priyadarshi, Rahul Ramakrishna, Kamal Kamaraj
Director: Prashant Kumar
Mithai, the film's title, is supposed to symbolise the relatively good pay with which the corporates lure employees into willful imprisonment. So, is the film about corporate slavery? No, the Tamasha-esque first ten minutes of the film deal with that angle rather swiftly. What is it about then? The ideal answer would be friendship. It's about two men—Sai, a sensitive, weak man and Jaani, the street-smart loudmouth—who care about each other enough to leave everything aside. But the film insists on getting ambitious. It wants to talk about international politics—two kids with Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un's masks pee all over the screen. Then we see pretentious NRIs who ask for mutton sushi. Plastic emotions and the Coen brothers too are mentioned. Have you ever eaten a good mithai [sweet] that has more than two or three ingredients? I haven't.
First things first, the film isn't a dark comedy. Sai, played by Rahul Ramakrishna, gets hit by one bad news after another, but he isn't indifferent towards his misery. He constantly breaks down and makes a scene. Dark humour has a slyness about it and this film's anything but mischievous. The film's wit isn't particularly caustic either. Except for the way it treats its women—one is faceless, the other is heartless, and the last one is jobless—it's all rather sweet and colloquially nasty. Maybe if the woman who breaks Sai's heart gets hit by a car—I thought that's what the headphones are for—instead of a song calling her individualistic for being an evil person, that would have been dark and satisfying. No such luck.
Priyadharshi and Rahul Ramakrishna are both great actors, and their chemistry is what keeps the film afloat for a long while. Their affection for each other feels real and it warms the screen when it shows. Although the film tries its best to establish Sai as a character—he thinks he has a better chance at making it big because his garage is bigger than Steve Job's garage when he created Apple, it does next to nothing with Jaani. Why is he a lazy man and a bad husband? Why is he the one crying at the end when Sai is heartbroken? Is he sad for his friend? Or is he feeling guilty about the way he treats his wife? Or is there something more?
The thing is Priyadharshi can carry a bad script on his shoulders to an extent with his attitude and dialogue delivery—the bar fight is a laughing riot, but Rahul needs a good script to shine. This is one of the reasons why Dharshi's performance feels consistent throughout, while Rahul visibly loses energy by the second-half. The supporting cast, although talented actors, feels ineffective because of the way they are written. The Dude, inspired by the Jeff Bridges' character from The Big Lebowski, is more annoying than he is insightful. A 60-year-old man with a girlfriend half his age, a great house and money to maintain it and himself shouldn't try to convince men in their prime to relax and smoke a joint. It's empty and wrong. To his credit, Bushan Kalyan does a decent job and he almost pulls it off.
The best thing about this film is its technical aspects. Ravivarman's cinematography is innovative and the first scene between Sai and Siddharth uses split-screen rather effectively. Same with the scene where Siddharth and his girlfriend are conversing and her frame is split into four parts with overlapping dialogue to suggest that her words are going over his head. Vivek Sagar's music is another plus, adding flavour and momentum to the film when it badly needs it.
Prashant Kumar's writing is lacking, but there is a genuinely interesting idea lurking behind all the mess. Two friends in pursuit of a thief and they meet eccentric characters en route…interesting enough. Except there isn't any real urgency or need to find the thief, except for his challenge, but we are constantly shown that these two men aren't that strong-willed. That said, Kumar adds interesting touches that speak volumes of his potential—the strange dancing man in bright colored clothes, or the worn down Premier Padmini and how it's essentially a mirror to who Sai is—he is fine being inconvenienced as long as he gets to hold on to his grandfather's memory. The scene just before the intermission, where the friends are stealing alcohol from a sleeping man, just the same way he might have stolen Sai's possessions is deliciously ironical. But such fun elements are few and the pauses between them are excruciatingly long.
The film could've been shorter, but as a feature-length film, it's redundant and boring. I didn't need Kamal Kamaraju to strip and sing badly, definitely not at that point. One way to look at this film is by looking at the progression of Jaani's retelling of Sai's story. It was fun when he does it with the Dude. It was okay when he does with a store owner. It's slow and unfunny when he tells it to Deepthi, the detective. And it gets as bad as a Telugu serial when a song is used to turn it into a montage. The film only gets slower and pointless with every passing minute and I completely agree with the people leaving in the middle of it. I would've too if I didn't have to write this review.