Thankfully no one dies during Nautanki Saala! Not even the audience laughing. This one is just not funny enough to qualify as a LOL spree. At the same time the bum-chum camaraderie between Ayushmann Khurrana and Kunal Roy Kapoor is so pronouncedly pungent that we cannot but chuckle at the gamboling antics that take this desi French Fri-day special to the level of bearable humour.
Oh, didn't I tell you? Nautanki Saala! is a remake of a 10-year old French film Apres Vous which I had the good (?) fortune of seeing. While the French film directed by Pierre Salvadori is far more nimble-footed in the telling of a quirky 'One Fine Evening….' plot, the "official" remake (unofficial ones went out of vogue with stringent copyright laws) scores for the sheer joie de vivre (don't miss my French appreciation!) that Ayushmann brings to the table.
Kunal Roy Kapoor, as all of us who have seen that homage to horniness called Delhi Belly know, is an actor with notable comic acumen. Here as the spaced-out suicidal stranger who blows into Khurana's theatrical existence Kapoor confers a sense of hectic audacity to his intruder's part.
Khurrana bequeaths a clenched vitality to his character. Here's an actor who knows how to milk a situation or a line and exactly where to stop before it goes over the top. As the reluctant exceedingly altruistic host to a suicidal guest Khurrana goes beyond his Vicky Donor debut to show some hefty mettle.
Unfortunately the writing just doesn't give Khurrana, Kapoor or the three pretty female actors jostling for seductive space in the sluggish pace, a chance to breathe easy and let their characters acquire their own volition. Not that the screenplay is in a hurry to get anywhere. Rather, it takes its time to get somewhere that we don't really reach in spite of the film team's best intentions.
On the plus side, the original French film's restaurateur's realm is relocated into the bustling theatre world. And that is a cue for some eye-catching visuals and in house humour. Rohan Sippy's eye for theatrical detail can't match what R Balki did to the restaurant business in Cheeni Kum. But then, who's comparing? The cinematography is a refreshing synthesis of gritty realism and flights of colourful fantasy, quite like two worlds off and on stage that Khurrana's character grapples to come to terms with.
All said and dumb, the comic timing of the two lead actors does keep the narrative on track most of the way. Ayushmann and Kunal dig happily into their derivative roles of the saviour and the Loser from the French film. The duo whips up a wicked humour in this comedy of errors filled with a reined-in blizzard of boyish bacchanalia and banter.
While you are mildly amused by their antics you don't come away overwhelmed by this comic outing on the downside of spontaneous hospitality.
Oh, Sippy had desecrated the R.D Burman classic 'Dum Maro Dum' in his last film. Here he goes at the Anand-Milind track 'Dhak Dhak Karne Laga'.
Frankly, it doesn't make a difference.