One Night Stand asks us to consider what happens when a woman behaves like a man.
Two attractive strangers meet in Phuket. A night of wine and sex follows. It’s the standard-issue cinema sex in which the woman always wears gorgeous, lacy underwear and she doesn’t have a hair out of place, before or after. But the next morning, when he wakes up, she’s gone. He starts to obsess about her. She insists that all they shared was a fleeting moment of pleasure with no strings attached. Like Ki and Ka, there is a reversal of traditional gender roles. He mopes around, drinking, and proceeds to destroy his perfectly good life. She wonders what the fuss is all about.
I think this might be the first time that a Hindi-film heroine has insisted that a one-night stand remain exactly that.
Does she get away with it? Debutant director Jasmine Moses-D’Souza doesn’t answer that question, but a hat-tip to her for posing it in the first place. Despite the cheesy title, One Night Stand has some interesting ideas. I was curious to see what two women, Jasmine and the writer Bhavani Iyer, would do with the complicated and polarising persona of Sunny Leone. They preserve it, but also subvert it. They try and create a layered character for her. The good news is that there is more thought here than there was in Sunny’s last three films – in case you’re wondering what those were, Mastizaade, Kuch Kuch Locha Hai and Ek Paheli Leela.
The bad news is that the talent both in front of the camera and behind it simply isn’t mature enough to handle these complex ideas. Both Sunny and leading man Tanuj Virwani are too raw as actors to enact this story convincingly. In some scenes, Sunny’s face resembles a mask – she’s gorgeous, but nothing moves. Their expressions never adequately convey the emotions involved in a situation as thorny as this.
The same goes for Jasmine. She’s had the courage to pick a compelling topic but she doesn’t have the craft yet to see it through. One Night Stand is a hothouse of inconsistent messaging. Sunny’s character might be unapologetic about her sexual desire but the end credits roll on an item number – Ishq da Sutta – in which she is heaving and thrusting ferociously. Perhaps the idea was to cover all bases and be both radical and regressive. The film also doesn’t deliver on its inventive premise. It just plods along clumsily and then comes to an abrupt end. The writing is too feeble to support the strong statements. Though I did enjoy watching Kanwaljit Singh on screen after a long time.
So I can’t really recommend One Night Stand. But I think we need to acknowledge another marker in the evolution of the Hindi film heroine.
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