Farrey is a welcome change from other vacuous teen dramas

Sahil Mehta and Alizeh Agnihotri in Farrey. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

What are the economics for travel between Thailand and Australia? The right answer: Much lower than from India to Down Under. And I say this with a reason that will be seen soon. But first, the story of what otherwise is a remarkably trope-free film, Farrey.

Farrey is a Hindi and North Indian term (pronounced “Furrey”) used for chits that cheaters in examinations use. Over here, we see Niyati (Alizeh Agnihotri) as a topper and a genius brought up in an orphanage (which, like most, has financial difficulties to face), but with loving care by Shailesh (Ronit B. Roy) and Zoya (Juhi Babbar Soni) as if she is their own daughter.

On merit, the lass is admitted into a high-end college and the principal (Shilpa Shukla) even decides to take care of her traveling costs. Niyati makes friends with Chhavi (Prasanna Bisht), a rich girl who has never been academically strong but is facing peer pressure—her brother has ‘cakewalk’-ed into Stanford University because of his academic performance. Niyati helps out Chhavi on her first day in  sum and develops a bond with her and her friends, including Prateek (Zeyn Shaw).

Aakash (Sahil Mehta) is another topper and hails from an even humbler background—he works as a delivery boy after classes to help out on his mother’s meager income. Aakash and Niyati strike up an easy friendship, but Aakash warns her about getting close to the rich, who dominate their class. But Niyati does not heed him. Chhavi then asks Niyati to help her during a terminal exam, and thanks o that, her marks impress her father (Arbaaz Khan in a cameo).

Soon, two things happen: Niyati realizes that her ‘family’ faces a cash crunch, and the possibility of her getting into Oxford looms. Chhavi, who is under-rich, offers her incredibly big money to help her again, and this time, Niyati is caught but let off with a warning. But worse is to follow, as along with Aakash, the rich brats (Prateek included) offer the two geniuses a mind-boggling five million for them to fly to Australia (!!!) and appear for an international exam that is conducted globally on the same day at every country’s local time.

And why is that? Simply so that the two ‘brains’ can send in answers in a prearranged code on mobile as Australia is hours ahead of India in time and the exam will be conducted there hours earlier! What happens next?

Officially based on the Thai film, Bad Genius (in which too Australia comes in, which is the raison d’etre for the first paragraph above) and also billed as ‘Inspired by true events’, the film, to make its various points and also be faithful to the original, freely takes recourse to absurdities. But the pleasant other side is that I have never seen a teen or coming-of-age drama that completely sidelines teenage romance, love and sex and concentrates on its fresh theme.

The plus points are the lack of major clichés or templates and even the way potentially ‘filmi’ situations are handled: the last sequence between Niyati and Aakash stands out for its voltage and quick culmination. To give credit where due, there is also no melodrama created in the diverse sequences between Shailesh, Zoya and Niyati despite the varying moods and situations we see them in during the film’s length of 114 minutes. Everything is projected realistically, and yet there is drama and an element of thrill.

Chhavi, who is the main force who has deflected Niyati from the straight and narrow, is no cardboard selfish vixen, but a vulnerable and flawed girl who has become so because of unrealistic expectations from her father. Prateek is a shade more calculating and unscrupulous, but is no villain.

On the other hand, Niyati is no all-white persona. Though motivated by the poor financial state of her orphanage, her attraction for lucre and luxury is also one of the driving forces for her mercenary motivations. Aakash, at one level honest, hardworking and ambitious, also wants to belong and can compromise on his integrity for that.

Director and co-writer Soumendra Padhi (of the two-season Jamtara fame) once again delves into the youth and their deviant actions for making money, but the licenses taken here with logic can be overlooked for the bigger picture.

The songs are humdrum and the background score by Sidhant Mathur is better. The technical side is low-key yet competent, but the film is elevated by the four protagonists, especially the two girls. Alizeh as Niyati is superb as she flows through the intense and demanding sequences with seasoned ease—is this really her first film? Well, it is! She is easily one of Salman Khan’s best ‘finds’, so to speak, in a long line!

Almost equally effective is Prasanna Bisht as Chhavi. Her character is a shade more complex, in my view, and she pulls it off with brilliance, balancing the tightrope of a rich, not-so-bright girl who is only a go-getter of sorts because of her circumstances. The script does not veer into questions about what will happen with her later, and is also generally non-judgmental about its characters who are entering the age of facing challenges in life.

The boys do well, though I thought Zeyn Shaw, given his briefer role, shines a bit more than Sahil Mehta. The veterans, Ronit B. Roy, Juhi Babbar Soni and Shilpa Shukla, all of whom made debuts in the 1990s and millennium as leads, also deliver faultless performances.

Had Farrey concentrated on the story’s essence rather than given way to the absurd angles as an official remake, it would have been even more memorable. Its plus points do outshine its flaws. But once again, filmmakers must really stick to easily understood titles! Word-of-mouth may be great, but a title must explain things and lure audiences beyond the limited section of the Indian populace that understands what it means!

Rating: ***1/2

Salman Khan Films’, Athena’s, Mythri Movie Makers’ & Reel Life Productions’ Farrey  Produced by: Atul Agnihotri,  Alvira Agnihotri, Sunir Kheterpal, Nikhil Namit, Y. Ravi Shankar & Naveen Yerneni Directed by: Soumendra Padhi  Written by: Nattawut Poonpiriya, Abhishek Yadav & Soumendra Padhi Music: Sachin-Jigar  Starring: Alizeh Agnihotri, Prasanna Bisht, Sahil Mehta, Zeyn Shaw, Ronit B. Roy, Juhi Babbar Soni, Shilpa Shukla, Sp. App.: Arbaaz Khan & others






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