Chopsticks movie review: Netflix’s new Abhay Deol, Mithila Palkar film would be better suited for Hotstar
Director - Sachin Yardi
Cast - Abhay Deol, Mithila Palkar, Vijay Raaz
Rating - 2/5
Netflix is billing Chopsticks as its first Indian original film, a suggestion that is sure to mystify the 200 people who tasted the streaming service’s Rajma Chawal.
There is a distinction between the two, of course, which also applies to Netflix’s other ‘original’ films, such as the legitimately great Lust Stories and Soni, and even the bafflingly terrible Brij Mohan Amar Rahe. You see, these were movies that weren’t commissioned by the streaming service, but were, instead, sold to it. Chopsticks, meanwhile, was always intended to be a Netflix Original. Sadly, it would be more at home on Hotstar - buried 25 scrolls down its infuriatingly designed homepage, forgotten beside a third-tier Sharman Joshi film.
Watch the Chopsticks trailer here
It’s obviously meant to cater to a different audience than the one that enjoys Sacred Games, or even Mithila Palkar’s Little Things. But even by those compromised standards, it fails on several accounts. Chopsticks is a narratively muddled, surprisingly low-stakes ‘comedy’, that would have greatly benefitted by having a director who knows how to work around a low budget, and not succumb to it.
Honestly, I have seen YouTube vlogs with a more refined visual aesthetic. There is one sequence that is - for no reason at all - filmed on a cellphone. During its climactic chase sequence at the CST station, several extras stare directly into the camera, with the befuddled expression of someone who’s just realised they’ve wandered onto a movie set by mistake. And in one backlit shot, you can see right through Vijay Raaz’s glued-on fake beard - pun not intended.
Chopsticks aspires to be like something Dibakar Banerjee might have made in the mid-2000s, but in reality is more like the third film from the director of Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum - which is exactly what it is.
And because we can’t appreciate what it is, we must dig deeper to understand what it wanted to be.
To its credit, it gives Mithila an opportunity to play a different sort of character from the ones she’s played in the past; not at all like the progressive millennials of Karwaan or even Little Things, but more naive; one bad day away from being chewed up by Mumbai.
Mere hours after being handed the keys to her brand new car, she gives it away to a con-man who is pretending to be a parking attendant. ‘Game over’, reads the rather on-the-nose sticker on a ‘kaali peeli’ behind her. When the police fails her - as it tends to do in films such as this - she is introduced to Abhay Deol’s character, a professional chef who moonlights as a safe-cracker, and seems to have connections among the ‘taporis’.
It’s depressing to see them bound to such mediocre material, because both Mithila, and Abhay particularly - he’s starred in some of the best cult classics of the last decade - are very perceptive actors. The film’s sole laugh, however, can be attributed to Vijay Raaz, who is, as he tends to be, in a different league altogether. Often shackled to gangster roles, Raaz has found subtle ways to differentiate his ‘bhai’ performances in recent projects such as Gully Boy, Made in Heaven, and the terribly underrated Kaalakaandi. Calling him the film’s saving grace would be far too generous; Chopsticks would need a thorough rewrite to be ‘saved’ in any manner.
Like the inconvenient cutlery it is named after, there’s little reason to try it if there are alternatives to be found.