`What The Fish` review: Sparklingly original, funny and warm
So okay. Comedies are hard to sustain for more than an hour...and yes, this one does over-run its playing time by 20 minutes, although it`s just about a 100 minutes in length. And that`s a 100 conveying sustained satirical strength. The quality of the humour and the context of the characters` comic tangles is, on the ha-ha-ho-ho whole, adroitly maintained, sustained and executed.
So here goes. A cantankerous old woman in Delhi, Sudha Mishra (Dimple Kapadia, delightfully over-the-top) leaves her home and its two specific properties namely the pet fish and the money-plant, in the care of her couldn`t-care-less niece, who promptly hands over the responsibility to her ever accommodating boyfriend.
The rest of this wackily wound-up comedy records the relay race styled exchange of the old woman`s home`s care from one set of noisy eccentric characters to another.
Besides its immensely warm underbelly, what captures your attention is the originality of the material. Here is a comedy that seeks no reference points from foreign sources, does not lean towards Hollywood for its humour quotient.
No, this is not a take on Chris Columbus` ‘Home Alone’.
Set in Delhi, though not compulsively taken up with taking us on a tour of the capital, the narrative gets its energy from the robust telling of a reasonably sturdy comic situation. The wit is never derivative but constantly probing suburban eccentricities.
The character of the Haryanvi lout Hooda (Mithun Rodwittiya), who plays patron-lover to a Mary Kom lookalike boxer from Manipur, would be a laughing stock were he not so desperately pathetic.
The performances add to the narrative`s flavourful texture.
The actors, young and old, are cleverly cast. While Dimple`s cranky act is expectedly winsome (when has this actress not been a winner?), Manu Rishi as the neighbourhood lech who seduces his young friend`s naive fiancée (Deepti Pujari) when she is home alone puts in the other outstanding performance.
Manu is an actor who knows his character`s sleazy underbelly and nails it unabashedly.
There are other interesting characters, like the young vain Haryanvi boxer Rajpal(Vishal Sharma) who likes to crossdress in the night and performs a kathak mujra in the isolation of Dimple`s mauled and misused abode.
And Manjot Singh as a pet shop owner, whose sales of a particular variety of pet fish escalate, is also in-sync with the satire.
Come to think of it, the actors are all delightful, careening from the comic to the crazy without losing a beat or succumbing to the pressures of the heated humour.
I found portions of the comedy to be undernourished and over baked. The climactic scream ended up as a shuddering whimper. But that didn`t take away from the swing and the sting of the frenetic chuckle-worthy happenings.
Quirky, capricious and cute, ‘What The Fish’ is a warm little concoction with pockets of endearing eccentricity and feyness. The midriff of the narrative sags. But there are ample measures of giggle-inducing characters hiding their own ridiculousness in the garb of urbane casualness.
Gurmmeet Singh keeps the proceedings frothy and even paced.
You may not come away with much of a message to take home. But by jove, you will never ever leave your home in the care of any relative after this.
Subhash K. Jha