Vicky Donor: A Review
Vicky Donor – Dir: Shoojit Sircar; *ing: Ayushmann Khurrana, Anu Kapoor, Yami Gautam, Dolly Ahluwalia, Kamlesh Gill, Jayant Das
Watching this smart, tart, spunky little number (pun thoroughly intended) from Bollywood’s new wave of ‘low budget – high concept’ films, one becomes conscious of two arguable points: one, that Hindi fillums are finally waking up to the notion that stars headlining lame narratives may no longer sell tickets, but intelligent, well-scripted films with unknown actors will. And two, that a comedy about sperm donation is somehow far less obscene than years of Bollywood’s love for innuendo and rain-soaked dances.
Vicky (Khurrana, in a stellar debut) is a twenty-something layabout living in a barsaati above his mother’s (Ahluwalia) beauty salon in Delhi’s Laajpat Nagar area. Not lacking in ambition but with too much slacker inertia to actually find a job, he instead lands an unlikely position of, umm, power (of sorts) when he is persuaded by fertility specialist Dr. Chaddha (Kapoor) to take advantage of his super potent ‘boys’ and become a professional sperm donor in secret. With his marathon swimmers hitting the desired bull’s eye with nary a hiccough, soon, Vicky is not only bringing in the bucks by scoring big in the hunger gametes, and buying his bohemian Punjabi grandma her gadget wish list, he is also courting pretty, spirited banker Ashima (Gautam). Though he manages to overcome the opposition of his Bengali paramour’s anti-Punjabi clan, matters become far more complicated after an unfortunate discovery threatens his marriage, and his self-esteem. The good Doctor, aware that he is partly to blame for the mess, steps in to stem the rot.
Somewhat like Delhi Belly before it, Vicky Donor is not afraid to blithely fling itself into territories where ‘family’ audiences fear to tread; it is refreshingly frank about the kind of material you’d expect to find accompanying the subject at hand. Juhi Chaturvedi’s dialogue, a brilliant replication of Delhi’s Punjabi suburban-speak, is subtly but also screamingly funny, with ace puns and witty throwaways flying in thick and fast. (Dr. Chaddha, listing the kind of ‘designer sperm’ that is in demand: “Brad Pitt, Sharook Khan, Lady Gaga…”). Unlike Delhi Belly though, Vicky Donor wears its heart bigger than its smut on its sleeve; it is at the end of it, a really sweet film, with endearing, engaging characters who more than make up for the potential pitfalls of what is in truth a rather sparse story, made believable and relatable through uncannily inspired writing. Young ‘uns Khurrana and Gautam (TV imports, both) come off charmingly down-to-earth, with Khurrana also handling the comedy elements with effortless aplomb. Ahluwalia as Vicky’s hapless mater and Gill as his hippie dippy daadi make a delightful twosome, while Das as Ashima’s proud Bong father is a hoot. But even with this rock solid cast, the film is more or less made off with by Anu Kapoor. As the kindly, paternal, if somewhat sperm-obsessed, doctor, the veteran actor delivers a performance so raucously, disarmingly earthy, it really becomes the backbone of the film. One cannot imagine the film without him, and anytime you say that about an actor, well, there’s hardly a bigger compliment to be had.
One does wish that the director had not relied on the now outdated practice of dubbing the dialogue instead of doing synch sound, a decision which does rob the film of some of its warmth and authenticity. But that is a minor complaint; all in all, Vicky Donor lays good ‘n solid fertile ground for more interesting, quirky Bollywood fare to come.
Cult: Bombay Boys (1998) – Filmmaker Kaizad Gustad had a short-lived, troubled career in Bollywood, but did yield this sharp satire about outsiders consumed by the dark side of Mumbai.
Current: Ishaqzaade – Further proof this year that you don’t need big name stars to make a hit film.
Coming Attraction: Zinda Bhaag – This Pakistani-produced indie has been creating massive buzz lately, especially with the inclusion of Naseerudin Shah in the cast.