Cast:Arjun Rampal, Chitrangada Singh, Deepti Naval, Vipin Sharma, Kanwaljit Singh and others
Now, Arjun Rampal doesn't look like the kind of guy a woman would have problems being sexually harassed by. Lest we think he's been miscast, Sudhir Mishra gets this out of the way right at the start. A couple of minutes into the film, we're plunged into a conference room at an ad agency where a no-nonsense social worker called Mrs Kamdar (Deepti Naval) is heading an inquest into a sexual harassment charge against Rahul Verma (Arjun Rampal). He asks her whether he seems like the sort who'd sexually harass someone. A wisecracking character, whom we'll get to know and adore as Guptaji (Vipin Sharma), pipes up, "Arre, there's never been any need for you to sexually harass anyone!" Even Mrs Kamdar is amused. Another woman simpers, "You never sexually harassed me, Rahul... unfortunately!"
A woman simpers, "You never sexually harassed me, Rahul... unfortunately!"
We're already on Rahul's side - we've seen him as a little child with a kindly father (Kanwaljit Singh), who teaches him how to deal with the challenges he will face. The little boy from Saharanpur is now clearly a successful man who nurses his bedridden father when he's not thinking up clever lines to sell condoms or receiving awards for those lines. We're also sneering at Maya Luthra (Chitrangada Singh), who looks every bit the hard-headed office b**** we all love to hate. Sudhir Mishra gives us two powerful characters who leave plenty of room for doubt - a woman who seems the kind who'll do anything to make it, a man oozing charisma and authority. To top it off, these two seem to have been in a relationship with no label.
Maya's crassness comes to the fore at an awards function where, running into Rahul, she exclaims that she didn't know he was there - if she had, she would have thanked him in her acceptance speech. We next see it when we delve further into the flashback, when she was a wannabe cool chick, complete with pierced lip, slashed sleeves, and Goth makeup. Wandering drunkenly to Rahul at the bar, she flirts with him, extracts a job offer, and warns, "But I won't sleep with you." Through it all, Rahul remains collected, amused, and a trifle supercilious.
Chitrangada Singh looks every bit the hard-headed office b**** we all love to hate
As we look at incidents from the past, told through alternating perspectives, we're forced to question both the truth of their accounts, and the larger perceptions at the workplace. Do women struggle to handle power? When a mentor feels his protege isn't yet ready for a certain responsibility, is he being protective or jealous? How does one categorise an office romance - does it come from boredom, love, or simply hanging out together all the time? How does one tell a ribald joke from a blatant move? And when you stand up in the client's boardroom, and pitch an idea your colleague came up with but was too scared to put forward, who should the credit go to?
Obviously, a film this serious needs considerable comic relief. From lines like "I was the fairness cream in her life" to the timing of the one-liners, the humour in the film stays fresh throughout. Sudhir Mishra brings in little touches that highlight the authenticity of the setting, such as a production hand asking a model to give him back the mango she's using as a prop, and guarding it possessively. Occasionally, the film talks a little too much, but one can't blame the filmmakers for being paranoid that the audience won't get the film's complexities. To his credit, Mishra refrains from throwing in titillating scenes. Even the lovemaking is mostly shadow play.
Arjun Rampal is quite exceptional in his edgy role. From doing a hilarious imitation of a rustic accent for an ad, to playing the boss who's irritated with any sort of inefficiency, to exploding with righteous anger, he plays Rahul so perfectly that the character assumes a life of his own. His comic timing deserves special mention, especially because much of the humour hinges on it.
Chitrangada Singh, while she looks the part of both the upstart and the domineering department head, struggles with the nuances of both her lines and her character. From an exchange in the film, we learn she was once so rough around the edges she used to pronounce 'Chanel', 'Channel'. But we don't see any hint of the duckling-swan transition in her character. Throughout, we see a girl who knows she's pretty, and who believes she's got brains.
The undoing of the film becomes its descent into mush. While it had earlier brought out the vulnerability of a woman who's trying to play a chilled-out modern chick - one who can tell love and sex apart - it gets it all mixed up in the end, and gives us a disappointingly tame finish.