While the film is poor in tactics, lacks stealth, the endearing characters and the performance of the cast make Chopsticks an enjoyable comedy
By Mayur Lookhar
Cast: Mithila Palkar, Abhay Deol, Vijay Raaz
Director: Sachin Yardi
Pass chopsticks to an Indian and s/he would be at pains to pick a morsel from the bowl. An inconvenient cutlery it is, but if a Chinese person is sitting across the table, then it’s more than likely an Indian will make a conceited effort to wield the chopsticks and woo the Chinese.
Nirma Sahastrabudhhe [no relation to 3 Idiots’ (2009) Viru Sahastrebudhhe] is a guide at a plush travel and tours agency. Nirma [Mithila Palkar] is not very confident at speaking English, but it’s the basic Mandarin that’s precisely landed her the job. So Miss Nirma [named after a popular Indian washing detergent brand] is merely required to help take the Chinese for a detour of Mumbai’s famous slum, Dharavi.
Nirma’s low self esteem makes her all the more unpopular at workplace. She always carries her pen drive that plays out self-help, positive quotes.
Buying her desired car [Hyundai I10] is a moment of great pride. She is not happy that the sum total of her registered car number comes to number 11 rather than the auspicious number nine. Bad luck strikes poor Nirma as her car is stolen outside Mahalaxmi Temple [ located in south Mumbai] on the very first day. She can’t help but curse herself as she was the one to give the keys to the fake valet guy.
Beyond mere lip service, the cops have nothing to offer her. A man cuffed in a rope ask Nirma to seek help from one guy called Artist [Bobby Deol]. Artist is perhaps her only hope but she is left bewildered and amused in equal breath by his enigmatic behaviour. She is so frightened at the sight of Artist holding knife that she accidently sprays the pepper spray into her own eyes. The search for her car takes her to the door steps of a noted buck loving don Fayyaz Bhai [Vijay Raaz]. Nirma and Artist have a hell of task to retrieve the car.
The victim needs to dupe the thief to get back what belongs to her. Didn’t we see such drama in Dibakar Banerjee’s wily, humourous family comedy Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006)? Banerjee’s film was built on fine plot and competent performances.
Director Sachin Yardi, best known for helming the sex comedy Kyaa Super Kool Hai [2012), picks a fine cast, but you seriously question his tricks. If you hire someone to do job, then why would you yourself be involved in the search? Nirma accompanying Artist through every search is a bit baffling. And it also puts her life at risk. Co-writer Rahul Awathe [screenplay] and Yardi miss the key element for such a plot – stealth.
Thin on tactics, but Chopsticks is backed by its fine writing, quirky dialogues and its subtle humour. With a name like Nirma, the detergent jokes are along expected lines but the humour stems from Artist’s and Fayyaz Bhai’s conversation with their respective mates. It’s Vijay Raaz as the intimidating but buck loving don that evokes the guffaws with his deadpan expressions. Fayyaz Bhai had paid over 2 million bucks to buy the bulky, meaty buck Bahubali. He serves only organic vegetable to his buck as he wants it to be in great physical condition come the battle of bucks.
Bahubali catches the eye of Animal Planet [Infotainment Channel] who come to film it and interview its owner. Asked to explain the meaning of Bahubali, Fayyaz breaks it down to two words – arm and strong. “Oh, this buck must be like the astronaut Neil Armstrong” jokes the British woman. “Who is this Neil Armstrong,” Fayyaz question his henchman, and he replies, “I don’t know, but he’s perhaps related to Neil Nitin Mukesh’. Silly it may be, but it’s often such humour that gets the family audience laughing.
Fayyaz Bhai loves music too. So, he has a noted playback singer singing him his favourite song Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana from the film Andaz  at will. The classic Kishore Kumar track has a metaphorical significance into Fayyaz and Bahubali’s life too. Raaz chips in with a brilliant show.
Like his mystical title, the Artist is an enigma too. The hall in his house resembles a dilapidated structure, but step into another door and it leads you to a plush, modular kitchen. The Artist is fine a cook. He harbours a dream of opening a restaurant one day but he doesn’t have the funds nor the degree. When not cooking his favourite salmon, the sophisticated Artist thrives in unlocking things.
As bizarre it is for the Artist to ask Nirma to accompany her in the search, their rendezvous throws up moment of self-doubt but all of it lead to a self-discovery for Nirma. The girl emerges as strong and an independent woman who is now learnt to fight her own battle.
The cherubic Palkar floors you with her fears, her innocence. It’s her insecurities, fallibility that makes Nirma so relatable. That Palkar carries it with a baby face is what makes Nirma very likable.
Yardi’s Chopsticks lacks a good strategy, but the filmmaker has researched well on the shady characters, lanes, businesses of Mumbai. Not often do we find real crippled men in Hindi films. Udan Khatola is a crippled beggar but he is loaded with million of coins, and he’s hired children to do the counting.
A more sound, clever search hunt would have uplifted the film, but for its humour, and the delightful characters, one is tempted to pick Yardi’s Chopsticks
Chopticks is streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.