Friday Night Plan Review: A Fun and Frothy Sibling Comedy

The film, starring Babil Khan and Amrith Jayan, is streaming on Netflix.
Friday Night Plan Review: A Fun and Frothy Sibling Comedy

Director: Vatsal Neelakantan

Writer: Vatsal Neelakantan

Cast: Babil Khan, Amrith Jayan, Aadhya Anand, Medha Rana, Ninad Kamat, Juhi Chawla

Duration: 1h 49m

Streaming on: Netflix

It’s a little disorienting to watch an Indian high-school drama that has no murder, sex, drugs, violence, abuse, class rage and general depravity. But Friday Night Plan, directed by Vatsal Neelakantan, is that rare streaming-era film. It has some alcohol, but let’s just say that if this movie were a person, it’d be the designated driver in a group of wine connoisseurs. Friday Night Plan is so light and breezy that I didn’t need to draw my curtains and switch on the ceiling fan all day. It’s so vanilla that a group of chocolate brownies rang my doorbell. It’s so frothy that…never mind, the puns sounded smarter in my head. On a serious note, it’s a welcome antidote to shows like Class and School of Lies: The one-night-only premise of American teen comedies marries the sanitized tone of urban Hindi college flicks. Choose the cultural hybrid: Superbad (2007) meets Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na (2008), Project X (2012) meets Dil Chahta Hai (2001), or License to Drive (1988) meets Main Hoon Na (2004)? I was also reminded of the recent You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah, an old-school dramedy that reclaims teen friendship from the narrative pressures of romance. 

A still from Friday Night Plan
A still from Friday Night Plan

Brothers in Arms

In Friday Night Plan, sibling revelry shapes the highs and lows of a SoBo party. Eighteen-year-old senior Sid Menon (Babil Khan) and younger brother Adi (Amrith Jayan) paint the town green when their mother (Juhi Chawla) goes away on a business trip. After scoring the winning goal in a football match, Sid gets invited by the Cool Kids to the mythical FNP (Friday Night Plan) – a wild all-nighter that, as Adi explains, is the opposite of Mohabattein’s ‘parampara-pratishtha-anushasan’ rule. 

Sid is reluctant; he didn’t ask for this quarterback-style fame. Suddenly, he’s a legend. All it took was one (accidental) goal in a game he wasn’t even supposed to play. If he were in Harvard, he would have invented a networking app to teach everyone a lesson. But he’s no lunatic, at least not yet. The shallowness of social currency is not a deal breaker. Naturally, the two brothers have a memorable time – replete with pregaming, emotional awakenings, quasi-Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy music, beer pong and towed cars. 

The tropes are familiar. Sid is a joyless nerd who only cares for college applications; he hopes to ask universal crush Natasha out for prom night. Adi craves social validation. They’re not from the same class bracket as the others at the international school. They take their mother’s car out despite her warnings. The popular kid, Kabir, is a typical rich brat who has bullied the likes of Sid for years. The party is at a posh penthouse, the kind where fatal mistakes tend to happen. There’s also a bitter sub-inspector who wants to teach these ‘spoiled youngsters’ a lesson. It’s almost like the film is inviting us to expect something edgier. But I like that Friday Night Plan stays sober – it presents a utopian version of the teen angst we’re conditioned to see. None of it is bonkers, which is sort of disarming. 

A still from Friday Night Plan
A still from Friday Night Plan

Family-friendly Fun

In a way, this is a children’s movie disguised as a young-adult tale. It doesn’t judge characters that are routinely written as empty stereotypes. The cop is not as evil as we imagine; it’s just a slow night for him. He merely puts the shenanigans in perspective. It also stops short of subscribing to the eat-the-rich template. Kabir and gang, for instance, simply turn out to be kids looking to get wasted. The friction with Sid and Adi never arrives. The rivalry and tension refuse to explode. 

It’s easy to look down on their entitled idea of fun – just as Sid initially does – but they’re more of a passing experience in the protagonists’ journeys. It’s not that they’re reframed as sensitive or kind teenagers (they still behave like potential victims in a slasher movie), but they’re also not dismissed as flimsy cautionary tales. What works is that the party exists in service of the brothers’ relationship. Adi wants Sid to be less uptight; Sid wants Adi to be more responsible. They may never be friends with the harmless one-percenters, but the film doesn’t shy away from expressing that they’ve always fantasized about a night like this. 

A still from Friday Night Plan
A still from Friday Night Plan

Amrith Jayan is a scene-stealer as Adi; he plays the baby brother as less of an attention-seeking nuisance and more of a sane bystander. You can tell that he views people through the lens of pop culture – the way he speaks, jokes, thinks, groans – and that he also misses the youngness of his brother. A spitting image of his late father, Babil Khan owns the mopey gait of Sid, like an arthouse hero awkwardly occupying a mainstream environment. That’s the arc, too. You can tell that the script is calibrated to reflect his own life experience – he brings a sense of lived-in gravity to a fictional character who grew up too fast after his father’s death. An introvert’s struggle to loosen up – and to let adolescence infect him – is the beating heart of this sugary drama. The intensity of premature adulthood threatens to consume Sid. It’s only fitting that a night with the kids of Zoya Akhtar movie characters reminds him of his age.

The flipside of the film’s virginal debauchery (no smoking, no swear words, no selfies) is that it sacrifices cultural punch at the altar of family-friendly fun. It refuses to cross a moral line. The staging is visible. The policeman, for example, feels like a PG-13 reminder that it’s fine to have fun, but not too much fun. The songs feel like symptoms of a story that wants to be taken seriously, but not too seriously. The ‘pranks’ involve sprinklers and hurling eggs at rival students. A car chase unfolds on – horror of horrors – deserted Mumbai streets. Multiple resolutions happen over the course of a night that offers too much clarity. This curated vibe is a bit of a trade-off, especially because the film never escalates the way it’s set up to. As a result, Friday Night Plan is no Saturday night fever or Sunday boozy brunch – yes, the wordplay sounded smarter in my head. But it does diffuse the excesses of a showy genre. It does make youth look hopeful again. I wouldn’t have thought the same a decade ago, but maybe a frothy vanilla shake on a breezy afternoon is what they call a “guilty pleasure”. Or maybe it’s the perfect hangover cure after a night of binge-watching decadence. 

Friday Night Plan Review by Prathyush

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