'Musical Chair' review: An interesting premise stretched too long

The film is about a man with an unusual fear of death.
Still from Musical Chair
Still from Musical Chair
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A lost, faraway expression is stuck on the face of Martin, a man who is said to write for magazines. You barely see him write, so you will have to take the word of Martin as he speaks to his doctor or his friends who introduce him to other friends.

The introduction of Martin’s character in the newly released Musical Chair on OTT platform Mainstream TV is to the point. The writer part is not what gets your attention; but his unusual fear of death, the one he tries to fight with everything that can work against his health and growing levels of cholesterol – alcohol, packs of cigarettes, late night binges on fried and oily food. It keeps the fear at bay, he tells his doctor. And you are taken to his past when on watching his father die, writhing on the kitchen floor at the age of 40, Martin, a child, fills his mouth with balls of rice, swallowing the food with the tears.

Vipin Atley, noted writer of movies like Homely Meals and Ben, has written, directed, composed the music and acted as the lead character Martin in this film with its really interesting theme. The movie would have worked a lot better had it not stretched itself beyond what it could say. The ideas repeat, the scenes appear stuck on the screen, and a haunting background music only makes it seem longer than it is.

We follow the daily routine of Martin, hour by hour, but the first many minutes do not bore you with all the details. It makes you curious about this man with his unusual fear and even more unusual ways of dealing with it. The fear comes to him at night, he tells his doctor. And you see him watching a television show about heart attacks, imagining him getting one as he lies down to sleep. Friends, used to these episodes, still come to his aid, play along as they take him to a hospital and has his tests done. The fear is at times made to look amusing with Martin’s certainty of a chest pain where there is none. Vipin produces these expressions beautifully, even as he never loses the faraway look on his face. Martin's smile is endearing and he is a naive 32-year-old who believes everything he hears. It could be his attempt to quell his fears.

So when one drunken man says that he would die only after he fulfilled his purpose on earth, Martin could at last sleep in the night, having “found” an easy way to escape death. He just wouldn’t have to fulfill his purpose.

But the fear never completely goes away and you find yourself worrying with Martin for his health as every time a glass of liquor comes to his hand and a beef curry that the doctor advised against is forced on him. As the movie proceeds, Martin is on a quest to find answers about death and life beyond it, approaching several people who he hears are experts on the subject. He doesn’t spare science or religion.

It also takes the monotony away when other characters come on the screen, however, some poor acting and often stretched scenes take the essence of it away. There is also a distastefully casteist remark made by a character, comparing the noise made by a religious sect calling for god to the ‘sound made by adivasis’. But then the character mocks most religions and Martin, who only seems focused on one thing, doesn’t take notice.

Humour is also thrown into the script in unexpected places and you wish there was more of it as certain scenes, especially in the last half hour, drag a tad much.

With three fourths the length of the film and some smart editing, Vipin’s Musical Chair could have gone a long way.

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