Aravind Iyer & Gopalkrishna Deshpande in Bisi-Bisi Ice-Cream
Aravind Iyer & Gopalkrishna Deshpande in Bisi-Bisi Ice-CreamYouTube

Bisi-Bisi Ice-Cream review: A funny, charming entertainer elevated by its central cast

Arvind Sastry’s film doesn’t ride much on plot as much as it does on the many endearing moments between the two leads, played by Aravind Iyer and Siri Ravikumar. A superb soundtrack masks its narrative shortcomings.
Bisi-Bisi Ice-Cream (Kannada)(3.5 / 5)

Everything revolves around the idea of pleasure in Bisi-Bisi Ice-Cream, director Arvind Sastry’s new comedy-drama that reveals a lot of depth and substance underneath its ill-suited title. There’s Raghav (Aravind Iyer) who is in perpetual despair and looking for joy back in his life, but isn’t able to go the extra mile for it. There’s his nameless neighbour, the young woman played by Siri Ravikumar, whose job is to ‘give’ pleasure to her clients but isn’t really happy about what she does (or is made to do). There’s also the ‘businessman’ Mahantesh or Manto (Gopalkrishna Deshpande), who orchestrates pleasure for others but personally enjoys it when he sees a bit of pain and shame involved in it. It’s only natural that he plays the nucleus in the story that is centred around Raghav and his neighbour, who endure everything thrown at them until they must choose not to anymore.

It’s interesting how Arvind Sastry views and designs his two protagonists. Raghav is lovelorn and lost, and if the terribly dark circles under his eyes don’t indicate that, the doctor he visits for feeling weak and feverish puts things in perspective for us. Raghav drives a cab, smokes regularly, and opts to drink coffee instead of eating proper meals. He doesn’t smile either, doesn’t have any friends or even watch TV at any point in the film, altogether suggesting that he needs to be rescued from mostly self-inflicted misery. Enter the girl, who first challenges him (quite literally in a scene) and then warms up to him before eventually liking him, but Arvind Sastry doesn’t make her an accessory to that rescue operation. Instead, refreshingly, he makes Raghav wish to come out of his shell and volunteer to show some interest in the girl’s life and dreams, subtly subverting our expectations from the time-worn love story template.

The ‘love’ remains unpronounced throughout the narrative and that’s because the writer-director doesn’t want this to be a rom-com, but rather a film about romance. Small moments and devices, like sharing a cigarette, forge something strong and inexplicable between the protagonists who otherwise have something heavy on their minds at all times. A vice like smoking occasionally turns into a virtue in the film because it allows two strangers to silently find friendship and comfort in one another, without having to tell each other their names until they have already met a few times. Bisi-Bisi Ice-Cream opts to ride very little on plot and mostly on these tender moments.

Arvind Sastry employs Nakul Abhyankar’s soundtrack, including a collection of mellifluous songs and an eclectic background score, to superb effect in that it handholds us at all times and almost becomes another character in the film. Enosh Olivera’s cinematography composes frames that are unobtrusive yet very vivid of a city like Bengaluru that has myriad topographies within its fold. The technicians aid as much as the screenplay does in not overstating anything – even the bad guy’s eccentricities, for most parts, remain under control and measured.

There’s a scene in which an escort’s rather-too-shy client accidentally calls her ‘akka’ (meaning sister). Another small surprise is sprung when the protagonist’s euphoria is nipped in the bud when a car intentionally rams into his and the screen displays the text, ‘Premature Celebration’. The text denotes a small chapter in the film and there are about 10 such chapters laid out over the 132-minute runtime. Or take the very first scene, which shows a husband and wife completely engrossed in the heat of their foreplay – they pounce at one another, swivel uncontrollably in each other’s arms, and one of them knocks over their framed picture causing the glass to crack. Maybe that’s all (and a little more that’s revealed later), says the director, is required to understand that the relationship is about to soon turn sour.

But while Arvind Sastry’s approach is delightful for about two-thirds of the film (this is one of those films where nothing ’really’ happens for the most part and you don’t mind it), it also compels him to rush the final act. It is as though the story suddenly demanded a fitting and more satisfying conclusion and all the pending exploration – of the individuals, their desires, the relationships between them, etc. – is paused abruptly. Things become a tad too verbose between the lead pair as we approach the end and what remained beautifully unspoken between them is spelt out to avoid confusion. And although the climax sequence, which takes place in a brothel, is apt, funny and very entertaining in its own right, the haste to get there feels just the opposite. Also, what is the purpose behind that scattered use of animation?

These shortcomings, however, shouldn’t matter should you find yourself invested in the crackling chemistry between Aravind and Siri. The former, in his shaggy, bewildered look, attracts tremendous empathy and care whereas Siri, while having very little to say throughout the film, exudes allure and conviction just with her gait. Gopalkrishna Deshpande is tasked with the toughest role of the lot because his character is cliched on the surface, but he has sufficient grip on the role to make it amusing, silly, and also mildly terrifying at the same time. The remaining cast includes a super-effective Sonu Venugopal, Shanil Guru, Suneel Raghavendra, and others who, thanks to the writing, imbue their bit roles with life. Don’t be fooled by the title of this film; do give it a chance if you like something that’s both funny and charming.

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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