When you see a name like Vikas Bahl in the credits as the showrunner/creator, expectations zoom up by several notches.
It also comes plummeting down with equal speed when you’re ushered into Sunflower, a cooperative housing society so crammed with abominable banalities that the mystery question is, where’s the filmmaker who made a delightful Kangana Ranaut starrer called ‘Queen’?
Bahl and co-director Rahul Sengupta straightaway plunge you into the plot. Mr. Kapoor (a roly-poly Ashwin Kaushal), a resident of Sunflower, has been murdered, you see who murdered him and how. Eight tedious episodes ensue to distribute a few red herrings all over the society while Bahl painfully does a character sketch of the various characters that live in the multi-storey. Herein lies the biggest problem – every one of them is a person you’ve already encountered on screens of every known size.
The society has meetings, ostensibly only to interview prospective residents. Meet judgmental Mr. Iyer (Ashish Vidyarthi), armed with a pronounced south Indian accent, an ambition that doesn’t go beyond becoming Chairperson of the Society, and a list of prejudices that includes the ho-hum no-Muslim, no divorcees, no gays.
Visit the dead Raj Kapoor and opposite door couple Mr & Mrs. Ahuja (Mukul Chadda & Radha Bhatt in a backless blouse at home) who weren’t on love-thy-neighbour terms. So police inspectors Digendra (Ranvir Shorey) and Tambe (Girish Kulkarni in a lengthier role than Shorey) smell a rat.
Flashback after flashback keeps re-introducing the viewer to the Kapoor-Ahuja squabbles which range from the routine, ‘Why is your car in my parking space’ to the unforgivable, ‘If I don’t do my wife, will you?’ It’s a crude, ‘Main nahi lagaoonga toh tum lagaoge?’ in Hindi.
A maid and the watchman, packed with sexual innuendo, is another ancient track that leads nowhere.
From Mrs. Iyer to Mrs. Ahuja, wives are pliant and placatory while daughters and daughters-in-law either cross-dress or flee their homes fuelled by untalented ambitions. Wives are also made to stand obediently while the men sit. It’s not just obnoxious Ahuja. Inspector Digendra too doesn’t have a problem with that.
The seen-before characterisations spill over to the police station where Digendra and Tambe use filthy language, there’s khaki sleaze all over, and domestic issues.
But the biggest letdown comes from Sonu Singh (Sunil Grover) who’s given premium time with a whole range of unnecessary scenes. Count the entire sequence with the cabbie, the nightclub drugs with a catfight over Grover, and the completely avoidable old man with the heart issues that culminates in long hospital scenes punctuated with farts and filthy abuse.
Sonu Singh running around the building in his underwear, his leering at colleagues and nurses, his gatecrashing parties, his unwanted and unfunny scene chasing the office boy to take out his trousers…none of them spike the humour quotient.
Why Sonu with a backstory would have a mystery smile plastered on his face or why he who has marked OCD will carry a discarded coconut shell home instead of chucking it in a bin in the loo, are all lazily written scenes of convenience.
The one refreshing quality is that Sonu is the only one who doesn’t utter a single ‘eff’ or ‘mc’ in a screenplay that otherwise overdoses on abuse.
Sample the dialogues that don’t have an abuse in them. ‘Noodles aur sarkar banne mein time lagta hai’ and ‘Manjan nahi, manoranjan hai’ reveal the low level of writing. Only one line from Shorey when he tells Ahuja’s kid, ‘Learn cricket, so you can spin like your dad,’ has a bit of smartness in it.
Among the several edit-worthy scenes is also one with a singer-aspirant and a rickshawala which has neither entertainment value nor adds to the mystery.
There are two saving graces. The last episode where inspectors Digendra and Tambe solve the case individually and what each comes up with is a neat way to end. And Mr. Ahuja’s comeuppance has Bahl’s ‘Queen’ touch.
But the maker of ‘Queen’ and ‘Super 30’ could have taken a shorter and a more sophisticated route to reach that conclusion instead of strewing the screenplay with underwear itch, breaking wind, the crudest of abuses and puke-worthy misogyny.