This is a new review of a very, very old movie. If you can call this a review. I mean, it is more of a story really…The story of what happened as I watched this film. On the other hand, maybe that’s what all reviews are: The story of what went through the reviewer as they watched the movie. But let us not go in circles, and let me begin…
I’d wanted to watch Mixed Doubles for the longest time, ever since I saw the promos on TV. Maybe I was 14 then. And my anticipation had built up for several reasons: First, it said it was a movie about wife-swapping. Or something like that, no? And what 13 year old girl cannot be somewhat thrilled at that idea? Second, at the time, there was a show called Wife Swap that used to air on Discovery Travel and Living – now TLC (or the other way round, who remembers!) – But that one had been so deeply disappointing…Mostly because there you only swapped wives to raise kids, and to expose them to a different “mom” – oh, Americans! But well, one still watched it every week, in the hope that something more risqué might just happen this time. Never did. Anyway, I believe I did start this sentence with “deeply disappointing.” And third, well, third…It was called “Mixed Doubles!” It was about swinging, which one might safely say, then (and now), was widely labeled a controversial sexual practice. But then it decided to name itself after a somewhat baffling format of a popular medieval sport. That had me intrigued.
Plus, I liked the visuals. In the ads I saw. The movie had a clean feeling to it. I’m not much of a film buff, so probably don’t have a wide range of precise references to put in here – and don’t hold me to this – but I think the closest it reminded me of, was something of a Wes Anderson shot. Like this one here:
So I clearly remember seeing the blue walls at the experienced, swinger couples’, viz. the Khannas’ house. And in the middle of wall, I think, there was a white, wooden photo frame with some nondescript picture in it (and mind you, all this might very well be something I’m just making up). But the photo frame is so simple, and straight, and the wall is so simple and straight, and they are both perfectly parallel to each other, in very straight lines, and there is nothing else on the wall. That caught my eye, because that was very different from other Bollywood movies, which were full of chaotic things that were not parallel to each other…They usually always led to intersections…Well, they usually lead, rather than just being there. This one, I thought, be’ed.
And of course, all this straightness in wall decor was super funny, because it was placed against a plot which wasn’t straight at all! How could a theme like that ever be straight? (On second thoughts, the “kink community” has done a lot to make themes like these very straight *facepalm* – but more on that later.) However, if not straight, this plot was also as clean and minimal as the wall behind it. The lines were sharply drawn, the words were definite, real. They were words you could hear, you do hear any day. There was no glamour in its words. At all. And the characters didn’t intersect with each other, they were all whole people. By which I mean, there was no atmosphere of heaviness left hanging in between the people in the movie. Which is not to say there wasn’t sadness, spite, anger, obsession, or awkwardness. Koel Puri, for example, is pretty creepy – she totally creeped me out, and for half of the movie, I didn’t know if she was regular human, or an actual witch. She is a definite outlier character – the rest of them are most emphatically regular people who drive cars, so she is always a bit of a question mark on that account. Also, all the foreplay between her and Ranveer Shorey- haha! I mean, I really liked how it was a different depiction of sex, than you usually find in movies, or well, in literature. The more popular ones are either super hot/sweet (objectified or meaningful) macho/feminine shit – sex, orgasms, desire, cocks – all in very obvious doses. Or they’re this deep, philosophical sex. Where sex might be meaningful or not-so-important, but it’s always in-the-moment stuff, and therefore, has weight. You know. 😉 Anyway, sex in Mixed Doubles is a lot about confusion, yet aspiration. Ranveer Shorey comes off very much like a teenage boy in bed – enthralled and nervous. Yet so persevering. Arjun-meen-ki-aankh types. It’s sweet and hilarious at the same time.
Konkana’s feelings about this switch bitch sex are more solid, and less wavy, if not clearly laid out. And I don’t think they’re clearly laid out- even though when she first hears of the idea, she’s like, dude wtf? She’s curious I think, but definitely not Shorey-obsessed- and therefore more solid. So comes in Rajat Kapoor. Actually, he is almost not there in the movie- he is the most background character. So he is the whole atmosphere of the Khanna house and later, towards the end, of the scene in the car and back at the Shorey’s house (though Malti begins to take over the atmosphere towards the very end). But if I could summarise the Rajat Kapoor atmosphere in an emoticon, it would be this one: 😐 It’s straight-faced with a hint of humour borne out of the knowledge of who’s pulling the strings. Or maybe just a knowledge of how exactly it’s gonna pan out, all details included…
A note on editing: Some people say art doesn’t need editing – go with the flow etc, the whole hippie crap, as if greatness lies in that one elusive unique moment of birth – and I always maintain editing is damn important if one is to make anything good or worthwhile, and this movie is one of the best illustrations of that. Good art is a good story, and good stories aren’t told without re-tellings. Also, in a recent interview, Rajat Kapoor said something that I very much liked: “If an image can be reduced to one meaning, it’s a bad image.” I liked his precision and brevity in this sentence, but also because this movie really is about good images, not bad ones. Simply because this movie doesn’t really have a point. It’s not looking to “entertain” ala SRK, and it’s not looking to provide “deep insight” ala Sanjay LB. And it’s not really looking to be satirical or ironic. The movie is just there. It’s a little story, and it’s not driven by ideas or points, so it’s just there, and that’s where it starts looking beautiful.