36 Farmhouse Review: It's a task to find mystery and comedy in this comical murder mystery
Old-school making, thin writing, and uninteresting plot make 36 Farmhouse a forgettable experience at best and a tormenting watch at worst
Sometimes a film sends you signs of imminent disappointment quite early on. Here, it first came in the form of a musical score that underlines the street-smartness of Jaya Prakash (Sanjay Mishra) every time he appears on the screen. But then when a film stars Sanjay Mishra and Vijay Raaz, it cannot be all that bad, I convinced myself. Moving on, there was another red flag; it was trivial, yet clearly indicative of old-school filmmaking. When Vijay Raaz’s Rounak Singh catches his niece Antara (Barkha Singh) sharing an affable and completely non-sexual moment with her friend Harry (Amol Parashar), we hear thunder in the background. While this thunder wasn't a precursor to rain, it definitely symbolised the tears streaming in my mind about what was coming my way in the next 100-odd minutes. And mind you, this was not a one-off thing. With its setting constricted to the eponymous farmhouse and with a limited set of actors, it’s hard to differentiate whether 36 Farmhouse is even a feature film or just a hurriedly made TV show; the caricaturish characters, the resulting performances, and the artificial production design don’t help either. Perhaps, the aspect ratio serves as the sole differentiating factor.
Director: Ram Ramesh Sharma
Cast: Floral Saini, Sanjay Mishra, Vijay Raaz, Amol Parashar, Barkha Singh
Streaming on: Zee5
Why is this film named 36 Farmhouse? I wondered when it began. Is it a quasi-sequel to 36 Chinatown? The doubt persisted even as Hariharan crooned ‘Mind your business aur aage nikal’ to the rolling credits. The 2006 film encircled a murder and two innocents who inadvertently become the prime suspects. Subhash Ghai, who produced the original has written the story of this film too, and he seems to have seen Knives Out as well. 36 Farmhouse, to begin with, is not a murder mystery because we are shown the murder—the victim and the perpetrator included—in the third minute of the film. That’s it, no deceptions, no ulterior motives, no twists… no fun. And... as the end credits rolled I knew it wasn’t a spiritual sequel because it definitely lacked the spirit in filmmaking. See what I did there? Well, it is still better than the jokes in the film.
The writer perhaps banked too much the subversion of the whodunit trope that he let go of the basic necessity: a captivating story. Let alone captivating, there isn't even a semblance of a story in 36 Farmhouse. But let me try to condense the arbitrary happenings: Vijay Raaz plays a smug failson who schemes to acquire the fortune from his aging, widowed mother, but his siblings stand in his way. He murders the lawyer appointed by his brother when the former arrives at the titular farmhouse with a revised will that would threaten Raunak’s prospect of being the sole heir (Not a spoiler, like I said, it happens in the third minute). It takes an hour to relay back to the murder point. An hour! What happens during the rest of the runtime, you may ask… well... nothing. Nothing substantial transpires, I reaffirm. Remove all the unnecessary parts and characters of the film, and this could have been a YouTube sketch taking a dig at Knives Out.
There’s an attempt to address the disparity between the rich and the poor as well. In fact, it indulges in this angle to an extent that it gets on your nerve; what good is ostentatious social commentary when it comes at the price of monotonous blague and utterly annoying characters? We also get an extremely humdrum dive into the relationship between the rich Antara and the poor Harry, but like the rest of the points in the film, that goes nowhere either. There’s only so much that performers like Sanjay Mishra and Vijay Raaz can do to salvage a joke of a script. While Mishra tries to keep things light in his trademark style, it’s a raaz as to what attracted Raaz to this irredeemable, joyless character. It’s a role—with his restraint and deadpan dialogue delivery intact—he can pull off in his sleep and he does.
36 Farmhouse neither offers a mystery to invest in nor comedy to engage in. It doesn’t try either. The only mystery is what merit did the makers see in this lethargic script, and the joke is the fact that something as silly and disposable got made. Well, I should just mind my business and move on.