Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Boman Irani, Paresh Rawal, Mouni Roy
Director: Mikhil Musale
In one unexpected scene in Made in China, Rukmani (Mouni Roy) asks Raghu (Rajkummar Rao) to shut the door, just when you think it is for the couple to fight without their child noticing, he helps her light up a cigarette and the two share it. She’s sitting inside a bathtub and washing clothes. He asks her to move and washes while she looks away into the distance puffing wistfully. I kept thinking about what would a Vidya Balan have done in that scene. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a “pathbreaking” role like an ISRO scientist or anything. But it’s a really well-written housewife’s role. Those are so rare. And Mouni Roy woefully underwhelms.
Elsewhere the film suffers from the exact opposite problem. It assembles a stellar cast of performers and undersells and badly stages their scenes. I wasn’t sure what to make of Raghu through the film. Not in a good way. Boman Irani appears as Dr. Vardhi in a niche he’s created for himself, the old professor uncle saying whatever the hell he wants. He, like the other famous Gujarati, Gandhi, has a pet goat.
Raghu calls himself a serial entrepreneur (no else will), and fails in every small business attempt when he lands up in China thanks to an annoying cousin Devraj (Sumeet Vyas). It is here that Paresh Rawal’s Tanmay Shaw, a successful businessman, overcome by love for a fellow Gujju for sharing his theplas with him, gives him gyan, among other things: Customer chutiya (this is beeped out every time) hai. Then one thing leads to another and Raghu is soon setting up an underground business, just like the alcohol business in the dry state. Selling a ‘magic soup’ that promises to be better than viagra. Though the film is about his rise and rise, when it begins, he’s actually wanted by the CBI. A Chinese General dies right after consuming the soup. So they suspect he’s adding tiger penis to the soup. (Umm).
Rajkummar Rao tries to get into the skin of Raghu but struggles because the foundation of this role is so weak. He is at his best when he is playing up the hypocrisy of his role. The man who prays to the cow’s udder in his home eats eggs when he drinks in China. The scenes with ‘Julie Ben’ his Chinese friend are sweet. Here too Rajkummar is entirely a home. Gajraj Rao as the inspiration guru is fun briefly. A lot of the good elements in the film are the result of good writing, but most of them never translate to good cinematic moments, unfortunately.
The film is long and slow (not in a good way). It takes many detours and is hell-bent on being a ‘message’ movie about the hypocrisy around sex education in India. It lacks the gumption to just be a movie about a man who doesn’t care what people think, and becomes big selling ‘Tiger – Magic Soup’ in the underground market. And it doesn’t have the depth to send a subtle message home. It hammers the message out loud, with not one, not two but three long drawn scenes in which Raghu and Dr Vardhi, give gyan about why we must all talk about sex openly.
So far as this movie business is concerned, perhaps the customer is not such a *beep*? To wrap this up with a cliche, the makers of this film, in the words of Tanmay Shah, do not have the key to the lock in our hearts.
The Made in China review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.