Mod Movie Review: ‘Mod’, Not Quite The Turning Point For Nagesh Kukunoor
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Debuting with an off-beat indie rom-com like 'Hyderabad Blues' in 1998, actor-director Nagesh Kukunoor has proved to be one of the most prolific film-makers to come out of India in the last decade and a half, if you look at the subjects he's dealt with. If it was a romance he started off with, with films like Rockford, Bollywood Calling and Iqbal, he's shown that he is equally adept at handling other sorts of cinema as well, be it coming-of-age stories, out and out comedies or even a heroic sports story. However, with his last few outings, especially the twisted, 8x10 Tasveer, the talented actor director has faltered quite a bit. It may be good news then, that his latest, Mod, has more in common with Nagesh Kukunoor's older, better works than any of his recent outings.
Before one gets their hopes up, it should be stated right at the outset, that Mod is not a full return to form for Nagesh. For someone who showed great skill in handling sensitive stories in films like Dor and Iqbal, there's still a bit of heavy handedness that comes through here. However, after trying his hands at absurd comedies in Bombay To Bangkok and suspense thrillers in 8x10 Tasveer, the sort of innocent romance that Mod brings along, is certainly a throwback to the Kukunoor of yore.
A romantic drama, Mod is an official remake of a 2007 Taiwanese flick called Keeping Watch. The film sees Kukunoor reunite with one of his favourite actresses, Ayesha Takia, who is cast here as Aranya Mahadev, a simple girl who has inherited her family watch repair store. Aranya leads a straightforward, rather solitary sort existence in the hills of Ooty, with her father and aunt for company.
Things change for her when one day, a customer, who calls himself Andrew, shows up at her doorstep looking to get his watch repaired. When he reveals that he is, in fact, her old high school friend Andy Raymond, played by Rannvijay Singh, the two begin a sweet romance, where he keeps coming back to her to get his water-soaked watch repaired each day. There is something mysterious about Andy, though, whose mannerisms seem a bit too child-like and simplistic for someone like him.
The twist is revealed mid-way through the narrative, as an Aranya in love with Andy finds herself confronted by some very uncomfortable truths and has to decide whether she can continue with their relationship.
The film's narrative is flawed majorly due to the pace that Kukunoor sets for it. While the courtship between Aranya and Andy is sweet to begin with, it takes far too long for the twist of the story to come in, with the entire first half being spent in this romance. The second half drags too, as, after the big reveal, it is inexplicable why Aranya goes back to Andy, or, even if she does, why she takes so long to come to the decision. There's no exposition of her reasons for going back to Andy, or why she acts the way she does in the climactic moments. The superfluous angle with Rannvijay's parents also drags the film down.
As an actress, Ayesha Takia shows a great deal of maturity in Aranya's role. Takia performs beautifully under Kukunoor's direction, and her measured performance here, as the conflicted lead of this film, is another feather in her cap.
Rannvijay Singh, who was last seen in Action Replayy last year, gets his first topline role here, as Andy, but fails to make the most of it. He is charming in parts, especially in the first half as the wooing lover, but doesn't quite manage to keep up with the role in the second half, which admittedly, requires some acting chops. Though there seems to be a disconnect between Rannvijay's screen presence and the shyness of the character he plays, perhaps the story justifies this.
Tanvi Azmi and Raghubir Yadav are present in peripheral roles, and do well, as always.
Though the film fails to captivate completely with its plot, what is enchanting here is Chirantan Das' cinematography. With the backdrops of Ooty and its surroundings, Das captures some exquisitely beautiful images with his camera play, and indeed, 'Mod' is a worth a watch just for these visuals.
The film's music comes from Tapas Relia, and while a few tracks are charming, on the whole, there's not much to remember here.
In the larger frame of things, Mod is a positive entry in Nagesh Kukunoor's filmography, simply for bringing him back to the right side of things. The film itself, however, works only in parts. Though Kukunoor still shows off a flair for direction, extracting some good performances and great visuals, his story-telling skills seem to have lost some sheen along the way. While one sincerely hopes that he finds his way back to perfect form again, and gets back to the sort of cinema he's made in the past, for now, 'Mod' isn't quite the perfect meeting point for Nagesh and his audiences…