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Mixed Doubles
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by Abhishek Bandekar

"Game, Set and…..not quite Match!"
3 stars

Bollywood has never had a Lester Burnham. And until I saw Mixed Doubles, I’d never expected to see one either. Writer-director Rajat Kapoor however, in his second indie outing, gives us our very own Lester. He might not be as sardonic, his anger not as expressed and his wit not as razor-sharp; but we finally have a hero who’s undergoing a mid-life crisis, who is as confused about his fluctuating libido as every other 30-something…and especially someone who is still likable despite all the failings. In other words, we have a genuine human being…not a superhuman!

Sunil(Ranvir Shorey) and Malti(Konkona Sen-Sharma) are a happily married couple of ten years. Double income and single dependent, theirs is an advertisement for any upper middle-class family. Ten years is a long time nonetheless, even for us civilized animals! And considering that a bull doesn’t mate the same cow, being stuck with the same sexual partner can get monotonous. That is precisely what Sunil yearns for- an outside shot for something different. It’s not that he doesn’t love Malti- Sunil is a thorough gentleman, a good & loyal husband, a caring father, a dependable family man –things are simply getting hard for him…instead of on him! So when a friend suggests swinging as a booster, Sunil immediately gets fascinated by the idea. He even rises to the occasion that night! The only obstacle for Sunil, and a big one at that, is to convince Malti to experiment with that lifestyle…which he believes should not be difficult as Malti was a science student!

Mixed Doubles, with its subject matter, could’ve easily turned into a sleazy sex comedy with sexual innuendoes and toilet humour. But writers Rajat Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap tackle it sensibly. The humour is true, and the situations delightful. Notice especially the interlude when Sunil tries to sway Malti his way, and later the idle chit-chat the swinging couples indulge in on their first meeting. Yet, Mixed Doubles doesn’t reach the heights that it has the potential to. For some unfathomable reason, Rajat Kapoor gives cold-shouldered treatment to a few promising sub-plots. Take for instance the other couple- Vinod(Rajat Kapoor) and Kalpana(Koel Purie). As a viewer I’d like to have known more about them, Kalpana in particular. What drives her kinkiness? I’d also like to know more of Sammy(Saurabh Shukla) and Doshi(Vinay Pathak)- Sunil’s faithful buddy-cum-colleagues. And I definitely would’ve liked to get to know Malti’s father, played by Naseeruddin Shah! Despite this obvious abandonment of threads, there’s something else that hurts as well. The story plays it safe in the concluding stages, too safe for comfort. It’s as if the movie suddenly decided to use protection, and lost its heat in transaction! If it weren’t for the redeeming final reel, the disappointment would’ve been greater.

Rajat Kapoor’s supreme triumph in Mixed Doubles is making Sunil endearing. Inspite of his childlike desperation, his stooping levels of decency and his declining morals; Sunil remains a character that we can/may relate to. A lion’s share of that achievement is due to Ranvir’s charming performance. This is Ranvir’s movie through and through, and he doesn’t let down one bit. This guy can ACT…a former VJ can ACT! He manages to steal the show from under everyone’s nose, be it Konkona(looking the best she ever has!), Koel(devilishly sexy) and the rest of the small, but able, supporting cast. Infact the only sour note incidentally, is that of Rajat Kapoor’s Vinod, played in a bland one-dimensional approach.

Mixed Doubles is nouveau cinema for a modern audience. Let the characters speak to you, and you’ll be satisfied. Even if the deciding set isn’t as exciting, there is a winner!

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originally posted: 02/11/06 02:53:20
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User Comments

5/23/06 Vishal A movie that does not take itself seriously and is deliciously quirky at the same time 4 stars
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