Director: Esham Khan, Haseen Khan
Cast: Nagabhushana, Bhoomi Shetty, Sundar
It's not by accident that Ikkat, the new Kannada comedy out on Amazon Prime Video, both begins and ends with its two leads staring right back at us, the audience. Through a large hole on the wall at first and then through the television screen later, it's the lead couple reminding us that we are peeping into their house during what is the first 21 days of last year's lockdown.
But this 'peeping' isn't ever meant to appeal voyeuristically. It is all harmless fun as though we are eavesdropping into a home full of wholesome cartoon characters; the sort that would name a cockroach Sandeep.
What makes this claustrophobic comedy even funnier is the time at which we have chosen to do the eavesdropping. It's not just that we are catching up with this couple, Janvi (Bhommi Shetty) and Vasu (Nagabhushana), during a difficult time globally, but it is also a tough time for them personally. We first meet them right in the middle of a massive fight that ends with both of them deciding to split up. So when the PM announces the lockdown exactly at this moment, it forces them to stick together, even if it means suffering through both their insufferable habits.
For Janvi, this is her unhealthy obsession with making TikTok videos. And for Vasu, it's his inherent cheapness that makes it fine for him to announce that all residents (of his 2BHK) must make do with only two chappatis per meal. Their fights range from absolutely silly (his height and her complexion) to properly relatable (division of house chores). So when a third character gets stuck along with them, the couple begin to develop a common enemy and they start noticing their own behaviour with each other.
None of this leads to situations or comedic set pieces we haven't already seen dozens of times, but there's a certain charm to witnessing a simple film that never tries too hard to become anything more than an odd-couple sitcom stuck in a global situation we have all been a part of. These set pieces too follow familiar patterns but it's the tiny variations and the lovely performances that keep throwing surprises at us.
Take for instance the scene in which an 'unwanted guest' is hiding in a wardrobe. Priyadarshan himself has made dozens of these scenes but when this person demands that he be given an air cooler, right after exclaiming that he no longer knows how to chew food, there's an audaciousness to it that makes it appear fresh.
Later, when this character declares that he is now renaming himself 'Rude Maga' instead of 'Dude Maga', you can't help but smile at this whimsical little world where 'Uncle Karna' is constantly called 'Uncle Corona'. Of course, not all set pieces work and the exaggeration can often border on annoying. But it never gets to the point of taking us away from the film.
Set entirely within their small Bangalore apartment, every character contributes to the laughter just like how every nook and corner of the space gets a funny scene or two. Without a drastic turn towards the end to appear serious needlessly, Ikkat is a film that knows how to comfort the viewer even when the jokes are about the Virus.