Possibly the most questionable Thai tourism ad since The Hangover Part II, director Mangesh Hadawale’s comedy-drama Thai Massage paints a confused picture of the popular travel destination. And this non-committal approach seems to have rubbed off on the film as well.
On the one hand, Hadawale suggests that everything you’ve heard about Thailand being the center of evil and corruption is correct, and on the other hand, he acts like someone who has been given a huge tax break by the Thai government. The truth is somewhere in the middle, one might imagine. And while there’s nothing wrong with the way Thailand is portrayed in the film – if anything, the country seems content with its tasteful image – it’s even more disappointing when the film itself can’t decide which version of itself it wants to present. to the world.
At different stages, Thai Massage is a Baghban-style melodrama, a small-town comedy, a fish-out-of-water game, and then, just when you thought it couldn’t go any further, an adventure film about living your life. good life. Juggling these tones will be a challenge for any film, let alone one produced by Imtiaz Ali.
Gajraj Rao stars as an elderly widower Atmaram Dubey, who discovers one day that he is struggling to make ends meet. Along with his grief, this bothers him so much that he tries to jump off a bridge one night. He is drawn into the ring by the bud, played by Divyendu, who assures him that there is no ‘samasya’ they cannot solve together.
Atmaram spills his guts, and together, they come up with a game plan. Of course, he can’t ask for the services of a sex worker in his hometown – the movie is set in Ujjain, by the way, where everyone seems to know everyone – and so, prompted by his new friend, Atmaram decides to go undercover. travel to Thailand and participate in some local culture. He’s just kidding, he wants to go ‘boom boom’.
But this happens after a while, which can make you (rightfully) wonder how the film spends the previous hour or so. There is no way to sugar coat it; it basically wastes everyone’s time, including his. There’s a mopey plot device that involves Atmaram recounting his adventures to his two disapproving sons, and a subplot about Atmaram’s trial-and-error method of curing his erectile dysfunction. But the film comes into its own after Atmaram touches down in Bangkok.
There, he meets several colorful characters, who become his companions in this new foreign land. Atmaram, you must remember, never traveled outside his district, let alone the country. And after a meandering first half where it offers nothing to write home about, Thai Massage, in its second half… delivers more of the same, albeit in a more purposeful way. There is an interesting subplot involving a carefree young Russian woman with whom Atmaram befriends, but the plot’s resolution is less than satisfying, as are the film’s attempts to unravel Atmaram’s troubled relationship with his sons. But you have to hand it to Hadawale, though; even though he keeps dropping the ball more and more, the juggling act never ends.
Rao, however, is superb in the lead role, putting his charming stamp on a character who struggles with decades of circumstances, even as he discovers new ideas, meets new people, and has new life-changing experiences. Also worth a shout out is Alina Zasobina, who plays Atmaram’s Russian friend Rita. He awakens something in Atmaram, and his presence enables him to express himself freely, which is basically a foreign concept to him, an Indian man. To its credit, the film doesn’t transform Atmaram into a different person at the end, which is surprising given that it’s restricted to a film that also includes a rapping driver with dreadlocks.
Thai massage promotes Ali’s sudden attraction to sex. The filmmaker’s evolution has been remarkable to witness, given his lifelong habit of viewing the women in his films not as romantic partners for his male protagonists, but primarily as non-playable characters in video games, whose only job is to keep the hero . the right direction. In many ways, the rebranding of Ali’s work has been stranger than even the political awakening of Anubhav Sinha, or He Who Must Not Be Named The Messiah Phase. But unlike recently Dr. Arora: Gupt Rog Visheshagyawhich shares many similarities, Thai Massage has a more delicate touch (even if it often feels like being trampled by a fat man).
The best version of such a story – the late-life redemption of a middle-class Indian – was beautifully told. Sharmaji Namkeen earlier this year. A Thai massage might not warrant a trip to the movies, but you could do a lot worse at home.
Director – Mangesh Hadawale
Send – Gajraj Rao, Divyendu, Sunny Hinduja, Rajpal Yadav, Alina Zasobina
Rating – 2.5/5