Sometimes a movie sends you signs of impending disappointment soon enough. Here, it first came in the form of a musical score that underscores the street-smartness of Jaya Prakash (Sanjay Mishra) every time it appears on screen. But when a movie stars Sanjay Mishra and Vijay Raaz, it can’t be that bad, I convinced myself. Continuing, there was another red flag; it was trivial, but clearly indicative of old-school cinema. When Vijay Raaz’s Rounak Singh catches his niece Antara (Barkha Singh) sharing an affable and completely non-sexual moment with his friend Harry (Amol Parashar), we hear thunder in the background. Although this thunder was not a precursor to rain, it definitely symbolized the tears running through my mind about what lay ahead in the next 100 minutes. And beware, this was not a one-time thing. With its setting restricted to the eponymous farm and with a limited cast of actors, it’s hard to differentiate whether 36 Farmhouse is even a feature film or just a hastily made TV show; the cartoonish characters, resulting performances, and contrived production design don’t help either. Perhaps the aspect ratio is the only differentiating factor.
Director: Ram Ramesh Sharma
Starring: Floral Saini, Sanjay Mishra, Vijay Raaz, Amol Parashar, Barkha Singh
Broadcast on: Zee5
Why is this movie called 36 Farm? I wondered when it started. Is it a quasi-sequel to 36 Chinatown? Doubt lingered even as Hariharan sang ‘Mind your business aur aage nikal‘ in the credits. The 2006 film circled a murder and two innocent people who inadvertently became prime suspects. Subhash Ghai, who produced the original, also wrote the story for this film, and he seems to have seen Knives out also. 36 Farm, for starters, is not a murder mystery as we are shown the murder – victim and perpetrator included – in the third minute of the film. That’s it, no disappointments, no ulterior motives, no twists and turns…no fun. And…as the end credits rolled on, I knew it wasn’t a spiritual sequel because it definitely lacked the spirit of the cinema. Look what I did there? Well, it’s still better than the movie jokes.
The writer may have bet too much on the subversion of the polar trope that he abandoned to the fundamental necessity: a captivating story. Even less captivating, there isn’t even a semblance of a story in 36 Farm. But let me try to condense the arbitrary events: Vijay Raaz plays a smug failure who plans to acquire the fortune of his aging, widowed mother, but his siblings stand in his way. He murders his brother’s appointed attorney when the former arrives at the titular farm with a revised will that would threaten Raunak’s prospect of being the sole heir (not a spoiler, as I said, this happens at the third minute). It takes an hour to go back to the place of the murder. One o’clock! What happens during the rest of the runtime, you may ask…well…nothing. Nothing substantial transpires, I reaffirm that. Delete all unnecessary parts and characters from the movie, and it could have been a YouTube sketch taking a dig at Knives out.
There is also an attempt to address the disparity between rich and poor. In fact, he indulges in that angle to such an extent that it pisses you off; what good is ostentatious social commentary at the cost of a monotonous joke and utterly boring characters? We also get an extremely mundane dive into the relationship between rich Antara and poor Harry, but like the rest of the film’s points, that doesn’t go anywhere either. There’s so much performers like Sanjay Mishra and Vijay Raaz can do to save a joke from a script. While Mishra tries to keep things light in her trademark style, it’s a raaz as to what drew Raaz to this irredeemable, joyless character. It’s a role – with his restraint and deadpan speech intact – that he can play in his sleep, and he does.
36 Farm neither offers a mystery to invest in or a comedy to engage in. He doesn’t try either. The only mystery is the merit the creators saw in this lethargic storyline, and the joke is the fact that something so stupid and disposable was created. Well, I should just mind my business and move on.