Madgaon Express Movie Review: A mad-trip at the movies

Madgaon Express Movie Review: A mad-trip at the movies

There is never a dull moment in Kunal Kemmu’s solid directorial debut
Madgaon Express (3.5 / 5)

A Konkani don does a headstand while interrogating three men who are hanging upside down. “Now we can talk face to face,” he says. “Where is my cocaine?” The men plead and promise that they’ll get the contraband in 24 hours. The don is strangely unresponsive. Is it the contemplative silence of the mafioso? Is a quotable line on the way? Did a blooper make it to the final cut? Finally, the don’s minions have to holler to wake him. “Boss, they are done with their lines.” Actually, a rush of blood to the head had made the gangster drift away. Unexpected. Eccentric. Hilarious.

Director: Kunal Kemmu

Cast: Divyenndu, Pratik Gandhi, Avinash Tiwary, Nora Fatehi, Upendra Limaye and Chhaya Kadam

Now,this scene didn’t need all this fanciful fluff. The don could have just come, said some lines to show who’s boss and ultimately made a fool of himself. But actor-turned-director Kunal Kemmu won’t go for the obvious. There is a constant (sometimes desperate, most times uproarious) attempt at getting the most out of a scene. It’s endearing. All the humour comes from the director’s prowess in surprising an audience which grew up on Priyadarshan films. This makes Madgaon Express a mad-cap of a ride. You rarely have a dull moment and before you recover from one laughing fit, here comes another. Kemmu takes ROFL quite seriously.  

Dhanush aka Dodo (Divyenndu), Pratik aka Pinku (Pratik Gandhi) and Ayush (Avinash Tiwary) are school friends. Like every other boy-trio in the country, they have also dreamt of making a trip to Goa (“Booze, babes, bikinis, babes-in-bikinis"). When it finally happens (years after passing school and college), it’s not what they expected. Cab drivers charge more to go to Bagha beach than a train ride from Mumbai to Goa costs. The only action they get is from escorts who demand balance payment after a blurry night of partying. What’s better (or worse?), during a silly altercation, Pinky is smashed into a bed box, which was hiding cocaine. He stands up, as white as a flour mill worker, an amusing lisp in his speech. Talk about getting into drugs.

The cocaine soon goes missing and the boys are on the run. Apart from the cops, on their trail are married couple turned rival gangsters: Mendoza (the aforementioned don, joyously played by Upendra Limaye) and Kanchan Kombdi (the marvellous Chhaya Kadam). Mix-in a bunch of bone-tickling situations and witty one-liners and you have got a relentless, fun caper.

What also needs mention is the heartfulness Kemmu puts in his characters. Divyenndu’s Dodo is the friend that got left behind. Pinku and Ayush have made it abroad, whereas he is being laid off from food delivery jobs. He takes to social media and with the help of photoshop, builds a life for himself his friends can be proud of. Beneath all his timidness, Gandhi’s Pinku is an obedient momma’s boy who has loved outside of his religion. Tiwary as Ayush is a neutral link between these two. The planner to the rescue whenever things go bonkers. The performances and the superb comic-timing of the cast sells even corny lines. Divyenndu, especially, is a riot. Gandhi, on the other hand, is frail and high-ly fearless whenever he gets some snow in his system. It’s a hoot.

Madgaon Express is a cackling of a film. For starters, most of its jokes land. Kemmu’s writing is fresh and his gags are inventive yet relatable, especially the ones happening in the background. Outside the Mumbai airport, a homeless child is throwing a vada paav at his mendicant mother, fed-up of eating the city’s favourite street snack. In Goa, a bunch of guys argue with a jet ski operator. They want to go solo. “Only you will come in the photos if we ride with you,” one of them says. “That’s not how we have seen in films.”

Amidst the fun and frolic, Madgaon Express wants to break the unrealistic perception of a trip-comedy, shaped by the previous offerings of its production house Excel Entertainment. This is a Dil Chahta Hai (2001), where characters are not on a journey to find themselves, rather they don’t want to be found. It’s a budget Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), if its title was more of a warning. I felt nostalgic after seeing the blue berths of a train’s general coach. The seedy lodge room the trio wakes up to, before things go batshit crazy, brought back memories of weekend college trips. Madgaon Express offers a sweet, middle-class relatability, last I felt during Fukrey (2013) (A character even buys a lottery ticket, a callback to the franchise).

Not everything, though, is fun and games. The songs (one of them is ironically titled “Not funny”), are unnecessary hiccups in the screenplay. The jokes sometimes get too needy and even a bit sexist (A woman is hit between the legs and it’s played for laughs). But all this can be set aside, since the film, beyond all its silliness and zaniness, has its heart in the right place. In a rare punch-line-less sequence, Divyenndu’s Dodo apologises to Gandhi’s Pinku for lying about his good life. The latter reprimands him, “However you are, you are our friend.” What are buds for?

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