By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service
Film: "Mixed Doubles"; Cast: Ranvir Shorey, Konkona Sensharma, Rajat Kapoor and Koel Purie; Writer-Director: Rajat Kapoor; Rating: **1/2
Some films just get you interested for all the wrong reasons. Think about it. This is a sex comedy about a bored and boring man who wants to pep up his life with a bit of wife-swapping... hardly the kind of theme and film that would qualify as little more than an effort to titillate audiences with a whole lot of junk feud in the domestic ambience.
Strangely and refreshingly, "Mixed Doubles" transcends the inherent limitations of its genre. The pincer-sharp dialogues written by Anurag Kashyap and a handful of believable actors, who seem to understand the inner world of their urbane characters, help to create a sense of lived in reality in this brief film about giggly grief.
Director Rajat Kapoor, who made the quirky "Raghu Romeo", seems to revel in the realm of the goofy. His 'hero' is a working-class bore Sunil, played with acute fidelity by Ranvir Shorey, who wants a bit of the swing-thing in his dry life.
When he suggests wife swapping to his devoted simple and straight-faced wife Malti, played by Konkona Sensharma, she naturally blows her top at her husband's unnatural urges.
Maybe the lady hasn't seen Abbas-Mustan's "Ajnabee" - the only other Indian film about spouse swapping.
The scenes of domestic disharmony are done with remarkable grace. The space between the main door and the washing machine in the apartment is used as a domain of distending domesticity.
Konkona looks so much at home washing her screen-husband's dishes that she reminds one of Tanuja in Basu Bhattacharya's memorable domestic drama "Anubhav".
All the years that divide "Anubhav" from "Mixed Doubles" are washed away as we watch Shorey and Sensharma's sassy shindig. Specially well written and performed are the office-canteen scenes where actor Vinay Pathak does a splendid breakdown act after his wife leaves him. These small-time actors... I tell you! They sometimes take your breath away.
And watch out for Naseeruddin Shah's little cute cameo as Konkona's fey dad. He is rather silly and in keeping with the film's prevalent mood.
The theme of marital boredom is tackled with deft humour. Scenes where Sunil and Malti meet up with spouse-swappers, Vinod (Rajat Kapoor) and Kalpana (Koel Puri), convey a certain edge of hysterical outrageousness while remaining within the boundaries of a bridled narration.
Rafey Mahmood's camera is an ally in the marital alliance.
The beauty of watching this slight, slender but svelte satire on spousal friction is that it creates an aura of tragic inevitability within its ostensibly flippant view of sexual mores. That a married urban man, no matter how intellectually incapacitated, would actually want his wife to sleep with another man just to create excitement in the marriage is sad enough. That he should spend the swapping night exchanging silly game ideas with his borrowed partner (Koel Puri) is worse.
No one has sex during the swap. That's the punchline. Now can we get back to the normal domestic tenor in the marital scheme?