Confusion of sexuality at its infancy in ‘Straight’ (IANS Film Review, Rating:**1/2)

March 20th, 2009 - 1:15 pm ICT by IANS  

By Subhash K. Jha
Film: “Straight”; Cast: Vinay Pathak, Gul Panag, Anuj Chaudhri, Sid Makkar; Director: Parvati Balagopalan; Rating: **1/2

Let’s get one thing, er, straight. Homosexuality is finally out of the closet in our films. Well, sort of. Last year’s naughty blockbuster “Dostana” had two of our most popular leading men pretending to be gay.

Now “Straight” has Vinay Pathak believing he is gay.

There’s a slender space dividing pretence from belief, specially when it comes to matters of human trait. Often what you pretend to be is what you eventually end up being.

Fortunately for serio-comic hero Pinu Patel (Pathak) he’s not sexually attracted to the persistently charming new stand-comedian Kamlesh (Anuj Chaudhri) whom Pinu hires for his restaurant.

The scenes showing Kamlesh insinuating himself into Pinu’s life and place of work are done with a dash of devilish bravado.

Within no time Pinu finds everyone eating not just off his tables, but also out of Kamlesh’s hands.

A triangle of sorts comes up in a queer way when Pinu can’t figure out who he’s more jealous, when the pretty new accountant Renu (Gul Panag) strikes up a camaraderie with Kamlesh.

Confusion of sexuality is a theme yet in its infancy in our films. Director Parvati Balagopalan keeps the going light-hearted and most of the time frothy and amiable. There’s an endearing quality to the way these NRIs in London are seen not in the predictable roles of migrant misfits, but grappling with more personal problems without taking themselves too seriously.

Seriously, being funny about sexual preferences doesn’t come easily to our cinema. “Straight” just about manages it with dignity and charm. The triangular relationship among Pinu, Renu and Kamlesh is punctuated by bouts of laughter, directed more at the way the characters deceive than conduct themselves.

The camaraderie that grows between the male characters is specially likable. Not just Pinu and Kamlesh, but Pinu and his London-born brother Rajat (Sid Makkar) who finally turns out to be what Pinu suspected himself of being.

Through Rajat some groovy rock numbers (Sagar Desai) make their way into the plot to add to the fair casual-fun quotient.

It’s not always that we see a woman director comprehending male bonding without prejudice.

Arranged marriages and unarranged alliances all come under satirical scrutiny under Parvati’s vigilant and vivacious camera range. She gets to the point straight most of the way, thanks to the performances.

While Vinay Pathak brings a characteristic candour and confusion to his character’s personality, Anuj Chaudhri as the endearing intruder Kamlesh plays the character sincerely and honestly. Gul Panag is, as usual, very camera-friendly.

What really works for this film is the uncluttered clean and crisp narrative with London providing a subtly sensuous backdrop to characters who are anything but subtle or sensuous.

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