There's no two ways to say this: Bheja Fry, the directorial debut from Sagar Ballary, suffers from what most Indie budget films these days suffer from - a lack of focused direction, a chaotic production value, a cast that is handled by the director as loosely as he can, and above all a belief that anything can make us laugh.
This is not a film that lacks in concept or in an interesting premise. It has a great bunch of actors to play with, and hey, it has got the multiplex crowd, which will lap this up only too quickly. What it doesn't have is a sense of direction, which doesn't bode too well for a first-time director. All the funny moments, the good bits of the film, are not because of, but sadly, despite the director at the helm.
Like I said, the premise itself is quite interesting, and lends itself to the kind of satirical, absurdist comedy that the film purports to be. Ranjeet (Rajat Kapoor) is a music company head honcho, who with his haughty and full-of-themselves friends, hosts a bring-your-idiot dinner every week. The bunch of snobs gets together and laughs at an unsuspecting individual's narrow world-view.
Ranjeet finds a winning idiot in Bharat Bhushan (Vinay Pathak), but when he hurts himself and can't attend the dinner, he makes the fatal error of spending the evening with the 'idiot'. Bhushan turns the tables on him, as he tries to set his married life and social life right, with very conflicting results. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose in Ranjeet's life.
Vinay Pathak is a consistent delight in the film that spans one night but a lot of events. His deadpan humor is spot on, and he takes to the character like fish to water in a performance that marks the coming of the funny man as a lead actor. There are other players too in the ensemble comedy, and that is where the loose hand of the director mars the proceedings.
Rajat Kapoor and Sarika (as his recently estranged wife) are wavering in their performances, and a sense of disconnected conceit pervades their presence on the screen. It is odd how Ranvir Shorey, the man with the bigger funny bone on film, gets such an underdeveloped and short time in the film, and someone like Bhairavi Goswami with an inconsistent performance gets a pivotal presence.
The problem is not the individuals, though - it's the larger ensemble that fails to fit in together as part of one whole unit. Everyone brings his or her individual presence, but a larger sense of the film is missing. The only people having an absolute ball are Vinay and Milind Soman, two people who obviously got into the director's head better than the rest of the cast.
The dialog is fresh and loaded with the kind of banter you and I might indulge in, but there are moments that are weirdly putting-off in their pretentiousness. The funny moments are guffaw-out-loud, yet there are some that induce groans. Really, the whole film lacks a larger producer's presence so badly. After a bit the whole up and down ride starts to get disconcerting, and there is no way you can recommend such an incoherent mess on its own.
Yet, I still do. If for nothing else, the absolute manic comic timing of Vinay Pathak, and the immensely likeable Milind Soman almost make it worth the while. Even if not for that, the absolutely original premise (not so original after all, though, as a friend pointed out that it is a frame-by-frame remake of a French play/film called The Dinner Game), and a fresh approach in the screenplay might make it watch-worthy. It just hurts to realize that this could have been so much better made.