Happy Birthday To Me Movie Review: A witty, heartfelt black comedy with profound themes

Happy Birthday To Me Movie Review: A witty, heartfelt black comedy with profound themes

While the premise of dealing with a dead body isn’t novel in cinema, the film distinguishes itself through its unique treatment
Happy Birthday To Me(3.5 / 5)

Director Rakesh Kadri has tasted success in Tulu cinema with the 2019 theatrical release Girgit, which he co-created with Roopesh Shetty. With Happy Birthday to Me, he ventures into a new territory for him for the first time: the OTT space. Interestingly, Kadri openly acknowledges that his inspiration for the film is Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film Rope, yet he crafts his own narrative that showcases his versatility and keen understanding of the differences between traditional cinema and emerging digital platforms.

Director: Rakesh Kadri
Cast: Chaithra Achar, Siddharth Madyamika, Siddhu Mullimani,  Gopal Krishna Deshpande, Rachana Rai and Archana Kottige

Happy Birthday to Me unfolds as a quirky black comedy with an unconventional plot revolving around death. Featuring a compact ensemble and absurdist humour, the film navigates a chaotic birthday celebration that takes a dramatic turn with an unexpected death. The story revolves around birthday boy Puneeth (Sidhaartha Maadhyamika) and his flatmate Tirumalesh, fondly called Trippy (Siddhu Mulimani). Puneeth, intent on celebrating his birthday his way, tries to dismiss his friends at his flat. However, what starts as an exciting celebration takes an unexpected turn when a female guest (Chaithra Achar) meets an untimely demise in his apartment. This sets off a series of comedic misadventures as they attempt to discreetly remove the body while contending with a slew of visitors: Puneeth’s girlfriend, Seema (Rachana Rai), landlord Janardhan (Gopal Krishna Deshpande), neighbour (Archana Kottige), apartment security (Natya Ranga), as well as friends Suhan Prasad, Rahul Amin, and Arpith Indravadhan.

While the premise of dealing with a dead body isn’t novel in cinema, Happy Birthday to Me distinguishes itself through its unique treatment. The film blends dark comedy with quirky elements, offering a fresh take on familiar tropes that is engaging and refreshing for audiences seeking unconventional narratives. Director Kadri effectively balances comedic elements with such a grave situation as a character’s death. The storyline may be chaotic, but Kadri’s treatment ensures that the film marries it with profound themes. Beyond its comedic facade, the film subtly explores themes such as friendship dynamics in a crisis, the consequences of reckless actions, and the moral quandaries that its characters face, all with a mix of wit and heartfelt insight. Through its narrative, the film immerses audiences in the lively atmosphere of youthful celebrations and probes the essence of true friendship—being there through both joyous highs and turbulent lows. The film is urban and contemporary, featuring candid dialogue that openly discusses topics related to unconventional substances and explicit language.

It is easy to see why Happy Birthday to Me invites a critical examination of Kadri’s directorial choices. He is adept at captivating viewers’ attention while leveraging the advantages that OTT platforms offer in terms of creative freedom and audience reach. Moreover, each actor in Happy Birthday to Me impeccably crafts their character. Chaithra Achar stands at the story’s core, while Siddharth Madyamika and Siddhu Mullimani form a dynamic duo that enriches the plot. Gopal Krishna Deshpande comes late into the film but adds depth to his role, and Rachana Rai and Archana Kottige contribute significantly, ensuring their respective characters don’t come across as mere stereotypes. Particularly noteworthy is Siddhu’s ability to infuse his character with comic brilliance, making it one of his most entertaining performances.

The story, characters, and perfectly orchestrated music guide you through two hours of suspenseful enjoyment. However, Happy Birthday to Me does leave one longing for a more satisfying climax. Nevertheless, whether you’re seeking a fresh take on suspense cinema or simply in the mood for a comedy that pushes cinematic boundaries, the film is as unconventional as it is entertaining. It makes you laugh, ponder, and perhaps reconsider your next birthday bash—because with Rakesh Kadri at the helm, even death can’t dampen the party.

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