All India Rank is pointless look at a social malady

Bodhisattva Sharma and Samta Sudiksha in All India Rank. Photo: Universal Communications

If this film had not been released in the festival circuit in 2023 itself, I would have suspected that this was one of the many consequences (which I fear are sure to hit us soon!) of the unexpected success of the riveting 12th Fail. Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the maker of that film, had said that his movie had 179 drafts of its script! This one seems to have self-indulgently done just a few, if at all.

Set between Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, where the protagonist, Vivek Singh (Bodhisattva Sharma) is based with his middle-class parents (Shashi Bhushan and Geeta Agarwal Sharma) and Kota in Rajasthan, where entrance examinations for IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) are held, the film takes off interestingly and imaginatively, depicting pressures on the teenager who would rather complete some course in Lucknow itself than run after a supposedly premium status. He also hates Kota, cannot enjoy his life there despite making some friends, but his father, himself a failure of sorts, is after him to become someone who is a ranker IIT-ian.

There is an affectionate working mother, sequences of typical conflicts in middle-class families, office woes and other factors that may be relatable had not the whole thing finally concluded as pointless and a waste of production resources and audience time. If 12th Fail made a hard-hitting social comment, this one does so without any real passion on a similar topic, or so it seems considering how things go.

Initially, especially with the help of some witty dialogues and animation coupled with smart lyrics, the film becomes a passably humorous narrative, with Sheeba Chaddha as Kalpana Bundela, a private tutor, proving a delightful asset to the film. It is only by interval point that I wonder whether the film is going anywhere at all, and 80 minutes into its 101-minute narration, I know it’s a lost cause.

The optimist in me kept on hoping for a twist or something truly telling, moving or inspiring towards the end, but the film has no real end!! It’s abrupt, pointless and a meaningless culmination to a drab, dull story that should not have been made into a film at all! That it went into the festival circuit demonstrates two options: one, that the festival audience either celebrates mediocrity or two, is forced to endure it! If this is a movie about and for Indians, then I am an astronaut!

Varun Grover has been a fairly talented, if outré, songwriter (Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Monica O My Darling) and the new music duo, Mayukh-Mainak, score some peppy, situational songs initially. But judging from this movie, Varun is extremely disappointing as a writer and his direction shows only rare flashes of promise, like the small ironies of middle-class, small town life shown in various sequences or the tender movements between Vivek and his friend Sarika (Samta Sudiksha).

Shashi Bhushan is effective as the stern-yet-soft and actually unsuccessful father and Bodhisattva Sharma as Vivek is also effortlessly real. Samta Sudiksha is a good find and Geeta Agarwal Sharma and Sheeba Chaddha are absolutely in command as always.

Wish the film had been too.

Matchbox Shots’ All India Rank  Produced by: Sarita Patil & Sanjay Routray  Directed and written by: Varun Grover  Music: Mayukh-Mainak  Starring: Bodhisattva Sharma, Samta Sudiksha, Sheeba Chaddha, Geeta Agarwal Sharma, Shashi Bhushan, Kailash Gowthaman, Saadat Khan, R.C. Modi, Neeraj, Ayush Pandey, Neeraj Singh, Vidit Singh & others





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