Mayank Shekhar's review: My Friend Pinto

By Hindustan Times

My Friend Pinto
Director: Raaghav Dar
Actors: Prateik Babbar, Arjun Mathur
Rating: ***

The human brain, it is said, can't handle more than 30 friends at one time. Or so says this Bombay boy Sameer (Arjun Mathur), his name obviously now shortened to Sam, who, like all of us, suddenly has hundreds of friends on his Facebook. One Michael Pinto isn’t one of them. Though for Pinto, Sam is his only friend.

While it doesn’t immediately seem so, young Mr Pinto’s quite a guy. His only dream's to be a good son. It appears he’s just lost his mother. He lives, I suppose, in Goa, and is on a week’s vacation, before he can finally become a priest. There was a film named after his uncle Albert, he reminds you, who used to get angry a lot (Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Ata Hai). Now that’s a 1980 Saeed Mirza movie that very few people have actually seen, but most will recognise from puns on its title that appear ad infinitum in the press even now. Things enter lexicon and pop-culture in mysterious ways.

Anyway, as you can tell, this film’s lead character has some sort of a movie pedigree. Of course, unlike his uncle Albert, he knows no anger, is remarkably credulous, clueless, some could mistake him for being mildly retarded even. He’s the proverbial village idiot. If you were to search for his other filmic roots, the tramp, immortalised by Charlie Chaplin in early Hollywood, adopted by Raj Kapoor in the ‘50s, might just come close.

Things happen to Michael Pinto. It’s New Year’s Eve. He’s in Mumbai. His only buddy Sam is his unwilling host. That buddy and his wife leave him behind at home, alone. By certain quirks or circumstances, Pinto’s now out on the city’s streets. He takes it all in. As do his audiences, who must remain seriously suspended in disbelief to be able to sit through this. Much like the fellow who hangs in mid-air with his t-shirt stuck to a building's scaffolding throughout this film. The tone remains entirely goofy. Or at least that's the attempt.

Prateik Babbar (Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Dum Maaro Dum) plays Pinto. There is a visceral quality to his screen presence. You can sense it right away. It may not be enough to support an entire movie. But it’s endearing all right.

A bag-full of currency notes being passed around (Jackie Brown) is a common motif for any kind of comic or serious thriller. So is the mafia, of course. And one night that turns lives upside down (Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin). We experience these things only at the cinema. This one has all of them: a retired don (Makarand Deshpande), whose father forced him to take up the gun over the guitar (said, 'guy-ter'). Booty of ransom cash that’s gone missing. And a night, where various eccentric characters, and their short stories, merge around Pinto, who’s always at the wrong place at the right time. But it's not that the movie single-mindedly follows or focuses on any of these trails, unlike say, the much superior comic masterpiece Delhi Belly, earlier this year.

Besides the don; there's his deputy; his two Thompson and Thompson type lackeys; an old cabbie, his son; an abandoned pup; a failed female actor (Divya Dutta); the girl (Kalki Koechlin) that Pinto instantly falls for, who dreams of becoming a dancer…. It’s not easy to keep track.

Sometimes too much happens, there's never a dull moment, which also means you’re left with very few real moments. Several portions seem flat; the narrative goes all over the place. Guns don't go off. Thankfully.

It's still exciting when the film captures the relatively sanitised chaos of the south of Bombay, a real city. It becomes bland only when this is alternated with excessive indoor artistry of Mumbai noir, or a cardboard musical. The artfulness shows though.

These are interesting times. Different voices. Newer faces. Still Bollywood. The material here may be a lot better than the movie. But it doesn't quite disappoint you still. Which is great to know. And you should be good to go.

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