What Are The Odds Movie Review: A charming new-age fairy tale
Director Megha Ramaswamy’s zany treatment makes What Are The Odds fresh
What Are The Odds begins with a fable-like introduction by a man, whom we later come to know as Valmik Burman aka Val. “You must have heard of many usual stories. But have you heard unusual stories?” he begins. His idea of an unusual story? A tailor and a paan wallah having kulfi together, at a paan shop. Might not be the craziest thing out there, but it sets the stage for Megha Ramaswamy’s version of a fairy tale that begins on an ‘unusual day, bringing two unusual people together’.
Director: Megha Ramaswamy
Cast: Yashaswini Dayama, Karanvir Malhotra, Abhay Deol
Streaming on: Netflix
The film is built on the premise that a lot of sweet memories and relationships stem from strange beginnings. What are the odds that a misdelivered lunch box becomes a vehicle of love notes? Or, what are the odds that an engineer and a local thug fall in love in the alleys of unemployment? In her fairytale-like universe, Megha brings two students from the opposite ends together. A girl, interestingly named Vivek, decides to skip a test, and Ashwin, the popular head boy, is pushed to join her by accident. And together, they have a whimsical day where they discover companionship in the strangest of places.
One might ask what’s so new about a social oddball and a popular person befriending each other; it has only been done a million times so far. But Megha’s zany treatment makes What Are The Odds fresh. For starters, while usually, films establish how contrasting these characters are right at the beginning, What Are The Odds throws in a few similarities as well. Vivek (the forever-sprightly Yashaswini Dayama) is sloppy, and Ashwin (Karanvir Malhotra) is quite the opposite. But then you also see the similarities — the dancing like a noodle to loud music, the non-starter bike rides to school, the milk moustaches. Despite their differences, they are just two kids trying to figure out the world, trying to get their minds out of their fishbowl.
Megha’s writing treats its characters well — with the right mix of sophistication and innocence. Jokes about sexism and surveillance are made. “Intimidating students is part of ‘their’ propaganda,” remarks Vivek casually as she tries to get her friend to ditch the exam as well. Voting is discussed and so are existential issues. “I would rather vote for something I believe in, like art,” says Vivek to Ashwin. And when she describes her father’s exit from their lives, she hopes he is queer and is full of regret for leaving the mother-daughter duo. “It would make complete sense as he would have never been accepted,” she says to an understanding Ashwin. It’s a film where teenagers speak of daddy issues. This is a generation that knows a lot more and is rather struggling to process it. What Are The Odds reflects this well.
The outlandish screenplay, staging, and narration, remind us often of a fairytale. The film looks and feels like flipping through one: colourful, vibrant, and also, innocent. And for the most part, the enchanting writing sells this lovely illusion. There’s a bar named Bar Bar, where someone sings ‘Bar bar black sheep, have you any manager?’ There’s no dearth of charm. But at places, some of these promising characters feel reduced to mere props: like a certain talking fish, or a dancing grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer's. However, Yashaswini Dayama and Karanvir Malhotra’s chipper performances ensure the film scores high on the likeability meter.
Perhaps What Are The Odds is a new-age fairytale, an upscaled version for the times we live in (No wonder it's narrated by a writer-musician named Valmik, who has a band named The Kapoors). One that pushes us to find the magic in our lives, hidden away under broken relationships, loneliness, illness, and a failing society. One which reminds us to find our smiles more often, and also not be blinded by the bleakness around. And maybe, the day we do that, there will be snow at our windows. What would be the odds for that?