With Love, Delhi! U; Thriller Dir: Nikhil Singh Cast: Tom Alter, Kiran Kumar, Ashish Lal, Pariva Pranati, Seema Biswas *
The people associated with the film are supposedly IITians, and they can't help but claim that privilege in the tagline while promoting their film. 'An intelligent film by IITians,' is what they are calling it but the film is anything but intelligent!
The story and narration mechanics employed by helmer Nikhil Singh and co-scriptwriter/lead actor Ashish Lal has A Wednesday written all over it, but the centre-piece gambit is not as crucial as it was in the Naseeruddin Shah starrer.
This film basically tries to make a point that could well have been made less torturously (for the viewer, that is). And it's certainly nothing to do with 'terrorism.'
Ashish (Ashish Lal) is sweet on best friend Priyanka (Pariva Pranati) but Priyanka doesn't reciprocate. She, in fact, adores someone else.
Then Priyanka's developer dad, Khanna (Kiran Kumar) is kidnapped and the mysterious abductor apparently doesn't want a ransom. He just wants the developer's only child to experience the same emotional upheaval that he experienced when Khanna cheated his father.
Not a promising premise by any standard but even so one could have overlooked that fact if the treatment had been half-way intelligent or interesting. Ashish and Nikhil design a scenario whereby the daughter is expected to connect cryptic clues having historical significance en route to finding her Dad.
She obviously doesn't have as much knowledge of history as Ashish who is a History major and the only son of a Professor of History (Tom Alter).
Deliberately eschewing the help of the police (even though her father's friend is an Asst Commissioner) Priyanka turns to Ashish for help. Her boyfriend proves useless while Priyanka and Ashish get much closer over the next few months in the process.
As part of the history lesson we are treated to visuals of several prominent monuments and ruins in and around Delhi, albeit under the pretext of decoding the cryptic clues. And it's all done in dry, uninteresting fashion. The harried daughter is immaculately dressed and made-up throughout her ordeal, probably in readiness for her newfound paramour.
She also exhibits a quite bizarre mood swing leading to a suicide attempt, forcing Ashish to come to her timely rescue. There's also this very ridiculous scene where plain clothed cops follow the duo without making any discernible effort to camouflage their pursuit.
Each scenario is more ridiculous and implausibly manufactured than the previous. There's barely any tension in the narrative and the twist starts staring at you after the first fifteen minutes of runtime.
The principle characters are played with studied seriousness that is better suited to a classroom enactment. Tom Alter, entering the frame after a long hiatus, is earnest and so is Kiran Kumar and Seema Biswas but the punctuated dialogues and unyielding scenario sullies even that effort.
The one solitary stab at humour, basically in bad taste, makes the entire ordeal even more so. The writing is obviously amateurish. Ashish Lal, an IIT Delhi alumnus, is probably better suited to a start-up than he is to a debut film.
The narrative style invariably invokes forgettable childhood memories of the UGC designed classroom sessions telecast on TV for years together. This misadventure into a field that requires more than just staid intelligence is clearly something the filmmakers will have to study and analyse at length.