Direction: Srinivas Sunderrajan
Actors: Hussain Dalal, Naveen Kaushik, Rajeev Mishra, Saunskruti Kher, Shreyas Pandit
"Greater Elephant, Sunderrajan's second feature - his first was the mumblecore independent film, The Untitled
Kartik Krishnan Project - was intended to be a dark film."Then along came adman-writer-novelist Omkar Sane, who co-wrote the screenplay and wrote much of the dialogue, deftly directing it into madcap satire territory, topped with a generous dose of surrealism.
The final product is a story that involves a mahout (Hussain Dalal) looking for his lost elephant, Kishore, in Mumbai, where he runs into a motley crew of colourful characters: Lord Shiva (Naveen Kaushik) and Parvati (Saunskruti Kher), who claim to be members of a defunct theatre troupe; an Anglo-Indian Dracula (Rajeev Mishra), whose horrendous accent is a pinch of Tom Alter and a dash of Ashwin Mushran; and an incompetent cop who dreams of getting a promotion (Shreyas Pandit), among others.
Greater Elephant works best during Pandit's scenes, many of which hilariously involve him talking to an imaginary friend, or when it addresses deeper metaphysical questions.
When it falters, it does so thanks to its sometimes-shoddy dialogue writing, often reminiscent of low-brow theatre or television, and its casting. Dalal and Kher, for example, turn in sincere performances, but are too urbane - and their Hindi far too polished for their characters - to be taken seriously. Mishra, saddled with a terribly written character, is almost unbearable to watch. Kaushik, on the other hand, is spot-on.
There are portions of the film that are maddeningly mediocre, which is a pity because there are so many others that are genuinely delightful - including a textbook example of self-referential humour involving a police van.
The conclusion is satisfying too. One only wishes that Sunderrajan had gotten there with a little more panache and subtlety - and minus that Dracula, which the story really could have done without.