Writers (Sulemani Keeda): Film Review

Sulemani Keeda Film Still - H 2013
Courtesy of Tulsea Pictures

Sulemani Keeda Film Still - H 2013

A Mumbai indie slacker comedy with an appeal only enhanced by recognizable filming locations and inside jokes.

Two losers who want to break into screenwriting court Bollywood while their love lives unravel in Amit V. Masurkar's feature bow.

The tale of two young screenwriting pals looking to trade their TV job for a ticket to Bollywood is transformed into witty young urban comedy in Writers, a promising if mostly local first feature from Amit V. Masurkar. Bowing at the Mumbai Film Festival, where it topped a poll as the audience’s favorite Indian film, and segueing to Goa Film Bazaar, the title has shown primary appeal to smart local audiences who recognize the writers’ hangouts in the western Mumbai suburbs and get the inside jokes. But the film is still funny on its own and is worth a look for programmers.

The original title Sulemani Keeda is Hindi street slang for a pain in the derrière, which is an apt description of brooding introvert Dulal (newcomer Naveen Kasturia) and his wild-haired writing partner Mainak (stand-up comic and writer Mayank Tewari). The latter is convinced, against all rational evidence, that they’re about to score in the big leagues. They wander around Bollywood offices futilely trying to peddle their script until they stumble upon Gonzo Kapoor (the well-cast Karan Mirchandani), a muscular playboy whose producer-father is willing to bankroll a vehicle to launch his aging heir.

The duo’s free moments are devoted to looking for sex, also with little success, as their pick-up tactics include trying to psyche out girls in bookstores by what they’re browsing. Due to a misunderstanding (Mainak claims the book he has grabbed about erectile dysfunction is for his friend), Dulal embarks on a platonic relationship with the charming photographer Ruma (Aditi Vasudev of Talaash), who turns up again at an amateur poets night where he reads his work, soldiering on bravely amid catcalls. After a halting three-day romance, he knows she could be the love of his life, if only she weren’t going abroad for two years.

While he’s thusly preoccupied, Mainak takes the lead in meetings with Gonzo and humoring his outlandish demands for the screenplay. Their trek out to the family’s weekend home, where they meet dour film censor Dilip Prabhavalkar and his barely legal girlfriend. But more is to come.

There isn’t that much here that’s narratively new, but the film’s brash, open-hearted spirit is full of giggly jokes that get the audience on the boys’ side. There’s much to appreciate in the inventive mise-en-scene and creative editing: When Dual and Mainak have a fight, a flock of city pigeons rises up around them in alarm. A short animation insert has Gonzo’s cat sniffing his coke and drowning in a fishbowl. A black and white writing sequence is cleverly edited.

Venue: Goa Film Bazaar, Nov. 22.
Production companies:
Tulsea Pictures in association with Mantra/Runaway Entertainment
Naveen Kasturia, Mayank Tewari, Aditi Vasudev, Karan Mirchandani, Krishna Bisht, Rukshana Tabassum
Amit V Masurkar
Amit V Masurkar
Producers: Datta Dave, Chaitanya Hegde
Associate producers: Deepa Tracy, Sailesh Dave, Suresh Mhatre

Director of photography: Surjodeep Ghosh
Khushboo Agarwal Raj
No rating, 89 min.