The film’s underlying philosophy seems to be that adulting is overrated, and that all the world's problems could be solved if only all of us believed in the healing power of oversized, colourful clothes.

Nivin Pauly in Saturday NightNivin Pauly in Saturday Night
Flix Review Friday, November 04, 2022 - 20:36
Save your money

One of the characters in Rosshan Andrrews’ buddy film Saturday Night has a condition called age regression. He’s stuck in a phase of extreme juvenility – and the film's expectation is that the viewers, too, transport themselves to a similar stage in life to enjoy it. Preferably nothing above kindergarten.

It's painful to see Nivin Pauly in a film like this. Saturday Night (written by Naveen Bhaskar) opens with a self aware joke on the actor's considerable weight gain in a WhatApp group called JASS – Justin (Saiju Kurup), Ajith (Siju Wilson), Sunil (Aju Varghese) and Stanley (Nivin Pauly). They are supposedly great friends but we never understand why. Justin and Ajith don't seem all that keen on hanging out with Sunil and Stanley, and after watching the film, I don't blame them.

Sunil, known as 'Poocha' Sunil, is the kind of person who crash lands in someone's house without any warning and expects them to take up whatever problem he wants to dump on them. But nobody is allowed to be rude to him because he is poor. Or less privileged than the others. Whatever. Aju Varghese alternates between wearing a hangdog expression (to emphasise his poverty) and acting like Santa Claus, and we are supposed to find this endearing. Nivin's Stanley, a pilot, walks around in exceedingly loose and colourful robes to underline his jolly state of mind. He also insists on speaking English in an affected manner all through the film. Stanley wants everyone to love Sunil because Sunil is their poor, very poor friend – I know I'm repeating this point but so does the screenplay. Endlessly.

All the women who are in a relationship with the male characters are horrible, controlling witches, and the men-children need liberation from them. So, when Sunil calls Stanley's fiancée Nikki "Mickey Mouse" (Malavika Sreenath) and laughs at the spectacular joke, we are meant to be rolling on the floor with him. Not empathise with her icy stare. Or when Ajith's wife Susan (Grace Antony) insists on knowing why her husband exhibits such shady behaviour, we are supposed to feel bad for Ajith. Justin's Rachel (Niva James) is such a control freak that she decides what clothes he should wear. The only 'cool' woman in this universe is Saniya Iyappan's Vaishnavi. I couldn't quite figure out how she was related to all the characters (I confess, I stopped paying close attention after a point in the interest of preserving my sanity) – but she has dreadlocks, rides a bike with Tibetan prayer flags, and is one hundred percent approving of the men-children and their pranks.

The plot is all over the place. At no point do we feel involved in what's happening because none of the characters stick. The underlying philosophy seems to be that adulting is overrated, and that all the world's problems could be solved if only all of us believed in the healing power of oversized, colourful clothes. The utter lack of conviction in making the film is evident in how carelessly the scenes are stitched together. In one scene, Ajith and Justin call a bunch of people they believe can help them through a pickle they find themselves in. But it turns out, all these people are addicts in rehab who come together for group therapy –  and of course, they are all extremely jolly in their bold patterned clothes. You'd be forgiven for thinking it's an icebreaker party at a biennale.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to make a silly film. I still laugh at all the jokes in Dumb and Dumber every time I watch it. But fundamentally, the absurdity has to be funny. Not feel like someone's pulling your teeth out. The problem with Saturday Night is that it aspires to be more than a silly film; it wants to make all these grand points about seizing the moment, the importance of friendship and the like. But the ideas are so hollow that even the actors look half-embarrassed to be mouthing the lines. The background score tries valiantly to make us realise that we are meant to laugh here, here and here, but when nothing works, it is a futile exercise. The same goes for the cinematography – the film looks slick, but of what use is it when the material doesn't hold up? This could have been a trippy, fun film with psychedelic sequences but it fails miserably on all counts.

If I could hazard a guess, Rosshan was looking to make something like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Three men who go on a trip, mend their friendship, discover their priorities and escape from all that tied them back from following their heart. What we get instead is a ludicrous, badly written film that goes all over the place – from Mysuru to Jeddah and back, to be precise – and makes us count the wasted minutes, thinking 'zindagi na milegi dobara, so what am I doing watching this film?'

All through Saturday Night, Stanley listens to a motivational speaker on a tape recorder who says things like, "Breathe in. Breathe out. You are enough. You can do this." I sorely needed her advice to sit through the film and survive it.

Sowmya Rajendran writes on gender, culture and cinema. She has written over 25 books, including a nonfiction book on gender for adolescents. She was awarded the Sahitya Akademi’s Bal Sahitya Puraskar for her novel Mayil Will Not Be Quiet in 2015.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

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