Director: Neeraj Pandey
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Pooja Chopra
I’m starting to see the downside of Manoj Bajpayee’s terrific second wind. After his career-turning act in Aligarh, he is now becoming the face of ‘mainstream’ Hindi-language short films. Whether as an ethically conflicted hawaldar (Taandav) or a psychologically damaged artist (Kriti), he has been able to hold the gaze of restless YouTube users.
Whether as an ethically conflicted hawaldar (Taandav) or a psychologically damaged artist (Kriti), Manoj Bajpayee has been able to hold the gaze of restless YouTube users. He’s soon becoming the face of ‘mainstream’ short films.
But then there comes a filmmaker who simply decides to cash in on his hard-earned web popularity. I’m not surprised it’s Neeraj Pandey, though. Still swooning from the generally favourable reactions to his MS Dhoni biopic, Ouch looks like a quintessential quickie. It serves as a damning 14-minute nutshell of the famous director’s infamous limitations. He may have a flair for picking out interesting stories, but I’ve never really bought into his craft of storytelling.
Ouch serves as a damning 14-minute nutshell of the famous director’s infamous limitations. He may have a flair for picking out interesting stories, but I’ve never really bought into his craft of storytelling.
Centered around a clandestine affair reaching its definitive moment, Ouch is actually about a man needled by destiny. And as we have learned over time, perhaps there’s no better “I’m screwed” face than Bajpayee’s. His married lover (Pooja Chopra) suddenly has a change of heart about them moments after he has kept his side of the bargain by leaving his wife. She is here to end things, instead of beginning a new life together.
The man’s predicament here is as amusing as it is disastrous. But it’s inherently a drama with a dash of dark comedy. Instead, Pandey, viewing this through a withering male gaze, treats this as a situational comedy. He equips his film with a terribly silly background score (again), desperately reminding us right from the first frame that something funny is about to happen. Even as the tearful lady approaches their hotel room, the darned contradictory riff ruins the gravitas of the moment. I was afraid she’d fall to her death just to test the nerve of this stubborn music. I couldn’t get over it – what with the obvious musical cues later peppering their conversation. We get it. He is done for.
She looks like she has attained nirvana, and is simultaneously apologetic, which already makes him look like a fool. Pandey’s spoon-feeding treatment is unnecessary. This somewhat soils our perception of Bajpayee’s reading of his own role, too. The good thing about this medium is the freedom it affords these shorts to be more realistic – and therefore, foul-mouthed – with their verbal interactions. These two speak like any real adults would in an exasperated situation.
Only, one can already sense that she’s trying to sound natural to keep up with him. She drops a few obligatory cusses, more to remind us of their everydayness. His expressions are priceless; I only wish the space in their room was used more effectively to capitalize on his face.
This isn’t the first time, and won’t be the last, that Neeraj Pandey has been guilty of over-telling a film. For now, I’m just relieved Ouch doesn’t boast of any slow-mo strides and chest-beating patriotic undertones. That’s a start.