Run, it's mediocrity

Somedays I sincerely believe that my purpose in life is to watch cringe/garbage to prevent others from doing so. If that isn’t the case, then explain how/why everything that Netflix India decided to release in the last 2 months is a giant pile of stinking bullshit?
I am here to stop you from fucking your happiness and tell you why Bhaag Beanie Bhaag is a stinking pile of garbage, despite all the glowing reviews. I’m writing from the future, incredibly dark and bleak (the one where the show released a while back), and here to ask you to judge a TV show by the trailer and stop yourself from going, “let me see for myself how bad can it possibly be?”

There’s no end to that, especially if Netflix India continues to commission sub-par ideas into full-blown originals.

For those living under a giant sedimentary rock, Bhaag Beanie Bhaag (2020) is a story about an aspiring stand-up comedienne, Beanie (Bindiya Bhatija), a number-crunching day-job hater who’s not in love with her fiancé. This is her subsequent coming of age story, or so you’re forced to believe from the get-go.

If you’d like to know more than the trailer, and less than the 130-minute long runtime then allow me to help you. Beanie aspires to be a mix between a badass and a sorry character; think a time travel segment between Fleabag (2016-2019) and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-), and then imagine a terrible accident because your senses are shutting down. That’s to say, a woman with borderline personality disorder attempts to establish her identity with a comedy routine, coming to terms with family, authority and navigating her identity and relationships within.

Insert belching sounds.

Someone save me from mediocrity, please.

If I must, then in a way, this also reminds you of the Ranbir Kapoor branch of cinema.

What’s Ranbir Kapoor's branch of cinema, you ask?

If you’re curious and have no clue then allow me to explain that Ranbir Kapoor branch of cinema represents a forlorn artist coming to terms with his personality and identity in a world full of unrequited love, dissatisfied professional life, and parents who are not quite understanding, not as much as Ranbir would like them to be. Beanie, in that sense, is a lot like the female representation of all characters ever played by Ranbir across most of his filmography, with the notable exception of Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (2009; dir Shimit Amin), an actual half-decent film.

Swara Bhasker, whose body of work I am appreciative of, for the most part, has done a disservice to all her fans with her OTT roles. I’m not sure if she was more ill-suited here in this or with her playing the lead in Rasbhari (2020), another one where I wanted to wipe my eyes clean with Harpic. She does not look like the part of Beanie. She does not act the part of Beanie. There are clues, there are words but there’s nothing convincing you of it all being there. You’re reminded of how incredibly fake it all looks and how terrible the acting is when you see her god-awful chemistry with Dolly Singh. That’s where all the façade of this show being a tolerable watch comes crashing down.

I have a lot of emotions about an influencer playing the role of an influencer—in this case, Dolly Singh as Kapi Kapadia (Beanie's sidekick)— but I feel this critique deserves to occupy an academic paper or a Saturday night comedy routine of my own.

I’m in minority here when I think and say that acting does not equal making faces at the camera and delivering dialogues like you’re reading a book. If that was the case, my batch of 50 classmates from post-graduation in Mass Communication would all be successful actors today. The world clearly thinks otherwise, much like how people are convinced that the COVID-19 vaccine is hiding a microchip  (wow, what an acting job, wow, what a science). I would like to believe that there has to be a universe where someone raises this and points it out, but until then, I’ll continue to be in minority, loud and proud. However, credit where credit is due. It takes real talent to be an influencer in real life and being terrible at playing one of your kind on screen. Top job, Dolly.

Perhaps, one of the few redeeming factors comes in the form of camaraderie shared between Ravi Patel and Swara Bhasker as their characters flirt their way into forging a connection over their mutual interest in comedy. It’s the only time in the show you won’t find yourself cringing because of how flawlessly that arc comes out and there's a whole route they chart, from strangers to friends. I could be as bold as saying it’s the craft of writing; here Ravi himself shares co-creator credit and adds much-needed flavour to the show with his screen presence. An actor/philanthropist, he’s nailed his character (also called Ravi) and effortlessly swings between being a pissant and charming in equal measure. In a 20 minute episode, that one ray of hope per episode takes you a long way, in this case, till the end of episode 6.

Mona Ambegaonkar and Girish Kulkarni who play the role of Beanie’s parents are the real stars of the show. They nail the supportive parts written for them and are a delight to watch as they negotiate their relationship with Beanie, while emotionally blackmailing her, an effective parenting plot used across upper-class families in metro cities in India. Not only is their acting authentic (Dolly Singh, please take notes), they command attention in short spurts of time when they appear intermittently across the hopeless arcs of Beanie's issues and her trysts with her existential crisis. Each one of their appearances, including phone calls to Beanie (much to her dismay) and other such interruptions is a welcome change from anything mediocre going on screen. If I were the creator/commissioning authority, I would consider axing Beanie, her best friend, her boytoys, and the rest, and focus on delivering a spin-off series on her parents. Take my money and give me a show about how parents emotionally blackmail their children into doing things (not you Karan Johar).

At 6 episodes, Bhaag Beanie Bhaag is a bite-sized portion of stale bread you’re served as complimentary starters at a high-end restaurant. You don’t want it, but you’ll eat it cause it’s better than sipping water and using the restroom. If your equivalent of a Holiday movie is a sub-par Indian original from Netflix about a comedienne while she lives her Veere Di Wedding (2018; dir Shashanka Ghosh) runaway bride fantasy along with playing an irresponsible Ranbir Kapoor character from his filmography, go right ahead. Proceed with candy canes, caramel popcorn, and whatever else instills the festive spirit in your numbskull.

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Anisha Saigal

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Pop-culture omnivore. Survived publishing, academia, film school. Struggling with the pandemic.