Direction: Rohan Sippy
Actors: Ayushmann Khurrana, Kunaal Roy Kapur
Nautanki Saala! is based on a frothy French comedy called Après Vous, which means After You. Sadly, much is lost in translation.
Director Rohan Sippy is unable to fully retain the lightness and effervescence of the original. Nautanki Saala! is funny in parts but often feels stretched and flat, like champagne without the fizz.
The film is about the tumultuous relationship between a theatre actor-director, Ram (played by Ayushmann Khurrana), and a suicidal depressive, Mandar (played by Kunaal Roy Kapur).
They first meet when Mandar is attempting to kill himself. Ram saves him. What ensues is a convoluted comedy of errors that has Ram falling in love with Mandar’s ex-girlfriend and Mandar playing the lead in Ram’s play, which, incidentally, is called Raavan Leela.
The best thing here is Kunaal Roy Kapur. He retains an expression of tragic confusion throughout and steals every scene he’s in.
Watch out for his killer audition for the role of Ram. Ayushmann is earnest but can’t match Kunaal’s comic chops. Still, the scenes between the two have wit and verve – which is sorely lacking in the romantic tracks. The heroines are bewilderingly bland.
I also couldn’t figure out why, in the last reel, the film shifts gears to melodrama. It feels out of synch.
Nautanki Saala! has all the ingredients of a peppy, amiable comedy but this soufflé doesn’t quite rise.
If you must, check it out for Kunaal’s performance, the fun music and the superbly garish glimpses of Raavan Leela – a play that I would definitely want to watch.