Synopsis – A quirky comedy from the heartland of India, it touches upon a topic that is considered embarrassing for most people in India and will showcase the same in a hilariously entertaining manner.
My Take – Over the past few years, in order to dish out the relevance of otherwise taboo subjects no commercial oriented producer or distributor would touch, filmmakers specifically from the Hindi film industry have been packaging their message with humor to reach a broader audience, allowing its audience to laugh while enlightening them. A brilliant strategy especially considering how conservative Indian society continues to be.
Keeping up with this layout ZEE5‘s latest release, which is helmed by first time director Satram Ramani and co-produced by Dino Mora, is a social satire that promotes the significance of condom usage. Despite the population explosion which sees it occupy the 2nd place (behind China) and 17.70% of the world share, the general consensus in India towards condoms use, especially in the rural sectors and smaller towns, continues to be distaste owing mainly to societal judgement or simple embarrassment to buy condoms from stores.
Here, director Satram Ramani aims to satirize the use of contraceptives along with the social and psychological challenges that come with it but in an entertaining manner. And while the film successfully manages to provide plenty of laughs, unfortunately the impact is hampered due to its weak final act, which ends up puncturing the whole well intentioned effort.
If handled well, the film had all the makings to reach the heights of the success Vicky Donor (2012), one of the most successful social comedies of all time, but sadly, in an effort to consciously blend comedy with a taboo subject that our society shuns, or is uncomfortable talking about it openly, its writing never raises the bar required to reach its full potential.
However, the film is never unbearably dull either, irrespective of its message handling the film mostly acts as a simple getaway watch for the weekend were silly jokes are aided by spirited performances to offer a pleasant time.
Set in a small North Indian town, the story follows Lucky (Aparshakti Khurana), a popular wedding performer who dreams of opening his own wedding band and marrying his girlfriend, Rupali (Pranutan Bahl), who runs her own wedding based floral supply and decorating company. But since Rupali belongs to an affluent family, and Lucky is an orphan earning minimum income, her father (Ashish Vidyarthi) rejects their alliance. Determined to make a quick buck to fulfill his desires Lucky enlists Minus (Ashish Verma) and a deep in debt Sultan (Abhishek Banerjee) to rob a goods truck belonging to an e-commerce portal.
Hoping that a few boxes of the containing electronic items will make them rich instantly. However much to their dismay, when they discover that the looted boxes instead contain different flavored packets of condoms, the trio are forced to peddle a product creatively they themselves are quite embarrassed to ask for at their local chemist shop.
Without a doubt the film accurately represents the Indian reality. Considering the taboos on a social discourse about contraception, it is commendable that the film brings up the subject at all, going so far as to educate viewers about how condoms play a part in preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The film’s humor also leaves you in splits many times.
The most amusing scenes come at the expense of Minus’s hearing deficiency, and the strategies the protagonists use to sell condoms at different avenues, which results in the launch of their fake company called Helmet. Though the film makes condoms look funny, it also uses that hilarity to never lose sight of how they’re no funny business and most importantly never comes across as crass at any point.
Hence it is quite disappointing how the film quickly falters in the last act, owing to its forced preachy overtones. Though director Satram Ramani has his heart in the right place his rush to resolution hinders the overall impact.
The film also naively suggests that women in India, especially sex workers, have any agency in the matters of their own sexual health. Lucky telling a sex worker to simply say no to her clients who don’t practice safe sex could have been quite funny if the tone-deafness wasn’t so sad. It’s just that the film could have been a much superior product had the makers paid attention to the writing especially in the last 20-25 minutes.
Thankfully the performances insure that the film is never a dull watch. Aparshakti Khurrana, after a string of supporting roles, manages to impress in this solo leading role. His comic timing is top-notch and even manages to find genuine emotion in the film’s cheesier, more over dramatic scenes. Pranutan Bahl convincingly portrays her slightly underwritten characters and shows excellent screen presence.
Abhishek Banerjee and Ashish Verma provide excellent support and manage to be hilarious and earnest. In other roles, Ashish Vidyarthi, Sharib Hashmi, Anurita Jha, and Jameel Khan bring in spirited performances. On the whole, ‘Helmet’ is a decent light-hearted social comedy letdown by its final act.
Directed – Satram Ramani
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 104 minutes