‘Madgaon Express’ movie review: Frisky comedy finds heart in excess – The Hindu

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March 22, 2024 05:07 pm | Updated 05:22 pm IST
A still from ‘Madgaon Express’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
In one of the funniest scenes in Dil Chahta Hai, besotted rich kid Sameer Mulchandani (Saif Ali Khan) gets a taste of real Goa. Christine, a fair-faced minx who caught his fancy on the shores, robs him blind and scoots. In a flashback, we see Sameer squirming on the floor of his hotel room, gagged and naked save for his cherry-dotted shorts. Before she leaves, Christine plants a quick peck on his cheek.
One imagines Kunal Kemmu watching this scene as a young man and responding to its comic payoff. His debut directorial, Madgaon Express, is indebted to Dil Chahta Hai — literally, with Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani as his producers. Yet it’s equally Kemmu’s ambition to deflate the dreamy cult of Dil Chahta Hai. To risk your heart, his film winks, is also to risk your clothes.
Whether he realizes that ambition is a topic for later. Pinku (Pratik Gandhi), Ayush (Avinash Tiwary) and Dodo (Divyenndu Sharma) have been friends since school. As with so many young folks in India, hamstrung by budgets and domineering parents, their Goa plans have remained unfulfilled, and once Pinku and Ayush move abroad, it’s completely out of the picture. Dodo, who’s left behind (geographically as well as on the social ladder), keeps in touch via social media, faking a persona to impress his well-to-do friends. His photoshop-aided charades stand to be exposed when Pinku and Ayush announce they are coming to Mumbai. Scared, Dodo suggests their long-deferred Goa trip as an alternative.
At the railway station — Dodo, who could not afford flights, tries to dress it up as the ‘real deal’ — there’s an accidental swapping of bags. It signals the barrage of comic hi-jinks to come: binges, cocaine, guns, criminals, cops. Marathi stalwarts Upendra Limaye and Chhaya Kadam are hilarious as a pair of rival gangsters with a past. It’s standard crime-comedy fare, but Kemmu — who has also written the screenplay and dialogue — keeps an eye out for mundane details, like exorbitant carfare in the coastal tourist state. My favourite scene is Pinku, jacked up on coke, pouring his heart out to Ayush, telling him about his inter-faith relationship; it’s just two friends sitting on nondescript chairs on a heat-hazed beach, the kind of scene that would end up on the cutting room floor of a more expensive film.
There are times when the easygoing rhythm of Madgaon Express is derailed by slapstick excess. A belated gunfight followed by a climactic standoff needed the wit and precision of early Priyadarshan. Kemmu, a sworn cinephile, pays homage to every corner of popular cinema, from his own cult zom-com Go Goa Gone to The Hangover movies and The Godfather Part I. Like many first-time directors, he succumbs to the need to accentuate every moment. Some of the visual ideas fall flat — the atrociously choreographed fantasy numbers come to mind.
It is tempting to hail Madgaon Express as a revisionist, drug-addled Dil Chahta Hai. But it’s…. not. Farhan Akhtar’s film was a beautifully calibrated drama, steadfast in its exploration of male adult friendships over a long period of time. Madgaon, despite its pockets of genuine pathos and heart, is largely a frisky comedy in the Todd Phillips mould. Its characters are funnily drawn and Gandhi, Sharma and Tiwary strike a suitably spiky bonhomie, but emotional engagement is perhaps a bridge too far. This film is a party, not a trip.
Madgaon Express is currently playing in theatres
Indian cinema / Hindi cinema
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