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India’s “mumble-core” movement is a youthful film genre that falls outside usual art house parameters. Full of urban angst and existential road trips, it typically features low-key plots, non-pro actors and colorful expletives with a lot of English thrown in. Everybody Gets Screwed Here (Yahaan Sabki Lagi Hai) is a fine example of the kind of energy the genre can generate when it’s done well. Revolving around a road trip gone awry, this first feature written, directed and produced by Satavisha Bose and Cyrus Khambata shows an unchanged social system spawning what amounts to class warfare. But like the title says, no one is safe, and rich and poor alike end in disaster. Premiering at the Goa Film Bazaar, it has a smart mixture of the comic and tragic, and a modern hipness bound to attract festival interest.
It’s also one of the few new Indian films unafraid to dialogue, at least a bit, about traditions and values, fate and choice, which provides a rich subtext for the pot-smoking characters in mini-skirts. The story opens in the middle of a senseless argument between pretty Asian Kesang (Eden Shyodhi) and dismissive Navy officer Bharat (Varun Thakur) about whether 9/11 was “an inside job” and a government conspiracy. They are on their way to the weekend birthday party of their rich friend Shanti (Teeshay Shah), Kesang’s ex boyfriend. Driving her car down a black ribbon of highway surrounded by breathtaking virgin forests is Chandu (Heerok Das), a good-looking but poor boy who works in her father’s Tibetan restaurant.
Out of nowhere, two motorcyclists overtake the car and knock them all out. They awaken in the jungle sans wallets, cell phones and, in Kesang’s case, panties. The situation is both an emergency (Chandu’s head is bleeding) and an absurdity as they try to figure out how to get back to civilization, bickering all the way.
Flashbacks fill in the backstory about how the odd bunch came together. Directors Bose and Khambata put a modern spin on the classic bedroom farce when Kesang’s brother Dojo, hoping to share a joint with his best friend Shanti, surprises the two in a compromising situation. Another scene with an attitude follows Chandu home to the seedy slum where he lives; waiting for him are some old friends from his village with drugs on their minds.
The film’s final moments ironically underscore the idea that life is a vale of tears through which men must pass. It offers an unexpectedly serious but not completely downbeat ending that wraps things up with some weight.
In the main role, Shyodhi gives Kesang a cool sophistication with her bright red hair and carefully constructed exterior. She also shows some compassion when she agrees to intercede for Chandu with her Dad, after he tells her his sad story. The earnest-eyed Das earns sympathy in this underdog role despite the incredibly bad company he keeps, but his character’s development is not very convincing.
Thakur barrels along as the unpleasant, over-bearing Bharat, who’s on his way to propose to his fiancee. He gives the impression he’s marrying above his social station. He looks down at Chandu and lambasts Kesang’s ideas, until he faces emotional truth at the11th hour.
Though it won’t be that obvious to non-Indian audiences, the dialogue is an amusing free-for-all of English, Hindi and Bengali. English is not only cool to speak, it’s the lingua franca for Kolkata-based Chandu and his Hindi antagonist Bharat, who are forced to express their ideological disagreements and personal antipathy in English.
Cinematographer Suresh Kumar Rajan has a lively style of lensing good at capturing transient moments. The film’s pop philosophy side is nicely underlined by the song lyrics and Pankaj Awasthi’s catchy score.
Venue: Goa Film Bazaar
Production company: Vibrant WorksCast: Varun Thakur, Eden Shyodhi, Heerok Das, Yoshika Verma, Pavitra Sarkar, Sandip Ghosh, Teeshay Shah, Asxem D’Lean, Shahruk KhanDirectors: Satavisha Bose, Cyrus Khambata
Screenwriters: Satavisha Bose, Cyrus Khambata
Producers: Satavisha Bose, Cyrus Khambata
Executive producer: Udayyan Raathore
Director of photography: Suresh Kumar Rajan
Production designer: Tushar Neman
Costumes: Veera Kapur
Editor: Cyrus Khambata
Music: Pankaj Awasthi
No rating, 102 minutes
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