Actor Samir Soni turns director with a stylish erotic thriller about a man who on his 40th birthday gets his wish -- a tumble in the hay with a young woman, which sets off a spiralling motion into his life.
No "Fatal Attraction", this. Though evidently fatally attracted to the theme of a married man destroyed by a one-night stand. Sanjay Suri, always underplayed and affable, plays Rajeev, a hotshot ad filmmaker. The self-consciously stylishly done-up film begins with Rajeev's birthday party where he is introduced to a young woman who is everything that a 40-year old married man should avoid, specially after a few drinks.
In no time, the sexually rampant man and the seductive stranger are in the bedroom, the birthday cake along with the party, forgotten in the next room.
There is an innate clumsiness in the way love-making scenes are shot in Hindi films and there is no escape from that sexual awkwardness in this film even if it is not technically a Hindi film. The characters speak in English most of the time. They glide around in sleek polished 7-star luxury with gleaming surfaces and sparkling teeth suggesting a life far removed from the grim reality of the Indian middle-class.
My Birthday Song is a good looking film. For a first-time director, Samir Soni seems to grasp the secret of audiences' collective gasp. He goes about the business of developing his leading man's attraction towards the forbidden fruit in scenes that suggest an erotic doom, an impending libidinous catastrophe.
It would be unjust to describe the twists and turns that propel the pulsating, pounding plot forward. A lot of the episodes that are piled on in pursuit of heightened anxiety seems ersatz. But the pseudo-momentum is maintained. It helps to keep us to be glued to the goings on.
There is a constant feeling of "What next?" in us even though the outcome is not always satisfactory. Suspense thrillers are killers only when they wrap up the messy proceedings with conviction. Here, My Birthday Song gets an ambivalent nod from us. The wrap-up is so designed to shock that it simply collapses under the weight of its own summoned urgency.
While Sanjay Suri holds up the proceedings with a looming semblance of believability, the rest of the cast loiters in the background waiting for the director to find a definitive place for them. The talented Pitobash shows towards the end as a car mechanic spouting ominous dialogues like, "A man must pay for his sins." If you've seen what Sanjay Suri has done in the earlier scenes, his discomfort under scrutiny is understandable.
While Nora Fatehi remains largely clueless about her one-night stand with a man she hardly knows beyond a quick romp that she shared years ago, Zenia Starr who plays Suri's wife is surprisingly persuasive in her confrontational sequence with her husband.
Handsomely mounted, this tale of urban infidelity is fuelled by the paranoiac fear that grips all successful organizational executives. Have I done something that may catch up with me today? Harvey Weinstein, please claim credit.
My Birthday Song struts its polished demeanour like a badge of honour. It has its slack passages. But most of the time we are absorbed in the goings-on waiting to see how Sanjay Suri gets out of the mess. The narrative gives him elbow room to seek an exit. Then pulls the rug from under his feet, leaving us with a feeling that the scriptwriter wanted us on the edge right till the end.
(Rating: 3 Stars)