This is an arrestingly and often deliberately amateurish coming-of-age
Protagonist Gaurav Sengupta (Ankur Vikal) is a wannabe film director
being forced to conform by his entrepreneur father (Salim Ghouse).
In being invigoratingly fresh-faced and innovatively voiced, the co-directors
have pressed all the right buttons in the narrative. The clumsy camera
movements come in handy when describing lives that are as aimless as
rudderless ships...But wait till you have to hold that frame steady!
You often wonder if the niche filmmaker is fated to remain that way
because he knows no other place as a creator.
"Missed Call" is the most unaffected film about adulthood and the quest
for motivated maturity since Dev Benegal's "English, August". Sex, you
are amused to see, isn't a very essential part of hero Gaurav's growing-up
rituals. He's so single-mindedly impassioned by the idea of filmmaking
that he seems to put off all other obligations in life, including love
in the unorthodox form of Gayatri (Heeba Shah).
Gaurav-Gayatri sequences are suitable, tentative and endearing as long
as the directors don't parody Hindi film conventions. Once the ritual
of satirising kitsch begins, "Missed Call" looks as though it's ridiculing
that which it can never ever hope to be.
Specially flat are the efforts to recreate a typical story session
with an uncouth Bollywood producer (whom Gaurav wins over by narrating
a script) and the utterly mocking replication of Guru Dutt's martyred
postures from "Pyasa" when Gaurav burns his girlfriend's pictures with
Mohammed Rafi screaming "Jalaa do jalaa do".
Slow burnout at 23? The trouble with this valiant effort to create
a cinema of truths regarding life's half-shaped untruths is that it
seems as dithering in its narration as the protagonist's ever-wavering
Parts of the film ring deeply true, thanks to the largely unknown lead
actor Ankur Vikal who brings a sense of wrenching uncertainty to his
character's crucifiable commitment to introspective honesty. Vikal is
more integral to the film's unanchored soul than some portions of the
narrative, which parody the unconventional with staccato savagery.
The tale of post-pubescent angst could've been gentler, more steadfast
in depicting the protagonist's inner turmoil. That hand-held-camera
feeling makes you queasy about the film's intentions.
Though you cannot really recommend it as anyone's idea of an evening
of diversion, "Missed Call" is a cutting example of niche cinema getting
as close to the urban reality about the average bourgeois youngster
as a camera can possibly take the audience. But at the end of the day
the sense of aimlessness that overwhelms Gaurav Sengupta is much too
familiar to connect with the audience as anything but an odd film about
a square among circles.
Trouble is, the circles are getting wider these days. Soon it would
be hard to tell the avant-garde from the conventional.