Hats off to Agneya Singh for depicting something that is still spoken about in India in hushed tones and code words (“maal”, “stuff”; call it what you will) without advocating or condemning it. His effort to introduce one of the biggest taboos of the generation gone by into collective conscience as part of a reflection of the millennial lifestyle is praiseworthy. The prospect of scoring Malana cream, believed to be the best hash in the world, is what drives a group of four upper middle class DU students to take a road trip to Dharamshala and Manali in Himachal, a state which effortlessly lends beautiful visuals that make for great cinematography.
The four ‘rebels’ Figs/Figaro (Imaad Shah), Jay/Jayshree (Ira Dubey), Niz (Raaghav Chanana) and Maggie (Auritra Ghosh) embark upon a journey into the Himalayan expanse, which leads them to question their sense of morality and religion, alters their world-view and explores the futility of rebelling for lost causes and real struggles. At one point in their initial conversation, Figs calls Jay “a walking cliché” and unfortunately, the same applies to all four characters.
All of them are stereotypical caricatures- Figs is the drunk, dreadlocked, secretly writing Hindi poetry rebel without a cause clad in a T-shirt that spells out ‘Hardcore Rebel’, he is born to rich parents (the brilliant Tom Alter is wasted in a fleeting appearance as his dad) who want to make him a lawyer and get him married and leads a life of escapism, throws around words like existential crisis, and has resigned to the chaos that he believes engulfs the world, portraying the passive nature of our generation.
Quite a lot about Jay is superficial (right from the westernized nickname), the college Deb Soc President, self righteous pseudo intellectual who cares about terrorism and the Free Tibet issue because it “affects” her but gets riled up from Figs’ criticism, lowers her gaze and runs away like an 80s heroine after kissing him, and disappointingly, after launching a tirade about the youth not being vocal or doing enough to bring about change, she abandons an environmental protest midway after being subjected to a lathi charge, her idealistic notions shattered in the face of ground reality.
Maggie is the rich, spoilt bimbo who is quite vocal about having no inclination to be a part of serious discussions. She plays Niz’s clingy girlfriend who loves the idea of partying, has no instinct for self-preservation (Figs saves her from getting molested by a café owner at a rave and all she can say is that he isn’t fun anymore) and hates Jay for connecting with Niz on an intellectual level and stealing Figs’ friendship from her. Niz plays the chilled out, shayari-spouting boy toy who is a budding photographer. Maggie and Niz leave the journey midway after a drunken altercation and a character graph that wasn’t going anywhere.
One major problem with the film is that it feels like it is packaged for a Western audience. 90% of the dialogues are in English, although Niz and Figs’ poetry which punctuates the narrative retains its mother tongue, leading to a disconnect and a feeling of pretentiousness from the get-go. We agree that Singh showcases the urban youth, for which fluency in a foreign language is considered a hallmark of social progress but let’s get real.
The viewer can make out that Figs THINKS in Hindi, more or less, then why obliterate that with English dialogue? Perhaps the director uses it to indicate that despite all his surface projections, Figs is a conformist wishing to appear ‘modern’. Tch. He kinda grows on you though. Jay and Figs outdoing each other at quoting famous writers and musicians got irritating after a point too.
The scenes illustrating the cast smoking joints and chillums and tripping on acid could have been done much better in terms of acting (the hippie commune they encounter pulled it off well, lol). They were unrealistic and forced, especially Jay’s parts for a person who’s doing it for the first time ever. We get that Singh wishes to seamlessly blend in the now common nature of smoking up into the storyline but some things just didn’t add up, which is why we say that he merely scratched the surface.
A lot of situations shot in Himachal were inaccurate, for eg- people hardly score from foreign dealers (Barry John as Vishnu from America), it is mostly the locals who run the dealing. The hotel staff asking Figs to get out of the room the day after the group took LSD and a café owner attempting to take advantage of a girl at a rave was also highly irregular. Customers are treated like kings for tourism is the main source of income for the natives there. Small things but noticeable nonetheless, which made the scenes less believable.
While we weren’t thrilled with M Cream, at least it brought into focus a reality that is otherwise mopped under the carpet in bourgeoisie households and explored four different mindsets belonging to a ‘generation at war with itself’. We recommend a one-time watch.
Rating | 2 stars