Drive Review: This Netflix Heist-Action Drama is a Pile-up of Fiascos


Drive Review: This Netflix Heist-Action Drama is a Pile-up of Fiascos

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Tarun Manshukani’s Drive was first announced in 2017. Back then, Karan Johar took to Twitter to share a still from the heist-action drama, starring Jacqueline Fernandez and Sushant Singh Rajput, with the accompanying threat that it would have a sequel. The film was initially supposed to be released the year after, but Dharma Productions kept postponing it, eventually removing it from its roster of releases altogether. Johar’s hesitation to release Drive in theatres was an open secret all through 2018; he even ordered Manshukani to reshoot major chunks of the film, a move that confirmed rumours of his unhappiness with the final product. But by then, Dharma Productions was already in way over their heads with the film to allow it to be shelved. So this year, exactly two years after it was first announced, Drive was reborn as a Netflix original film. It is now exclusively on your laptop screens, and not on the big screen — perhaps the only silver lining of Drive’s existence.Drive is both a cautionary tale about the classic arrogance of Bollywood studios, which have made a habit of greenlighting ill-conceived films, as well as the industry’s laziness, which involves treating Netflix as a dumping ground of sorts. It’s telling that even when global filmmakers embrace a digital release to broaden the scope of their ambition and deliver movies capable of becoming a cultural phenomenon, Hindi film producers view it as nothing but a loss-recovery machine. Even worse than the unabashed assault that is the two-hour-long Drive, is how it managed to get away despite its infuriatingly hollow filmmaking.

That Dharma Productions, arguably the biggest production house in the country, is unable to mount an action drama that doesn’t feel like an assault on the senses is baffling. It doesn’t help matters that Drive seems to be either completely unaware of its sub-standardness or weirdly boastful about it. The movie’s very first scene — a nightmarish love child between the Dhoom series and the Fast and Furious franchise — involves a drag race that unfolds at India Gate with the kind of tackiness that would have been shocking even if the film was a parody. I’m not sure what is more unbelievable about this scene: the fact that this breathless race is won by Tara (Jacqueline Fernandez), or that she drives a car while wearing an outfit comprising stilettos, a bodycon skirt with a thigh slit, and a satin bodysuit that looks impossible to breathe in. 

It doesn’t help matters that Drive seems to be either completely unaware of its sub-standardness or weirdly boastful about it.

I’m also not particularly convinced that Drive has a plot. The last time Mansukhani made a film was a decade ago, when Priyanka Chopra Jonas was still a desi girl and John Abraham was into yellow trunks and not aggressively chanting “Satyamev Jayate”. So it’s entirely possible that the director, also credited as the writer, may have simply forgotten about including one. But what Drive does have is a lot of unnecessary scheming. Everyone from corrupt ministers, cops, and the racer thieves in this film, glare at each other aplenty. Its heist tomfoolery, which involves stealing a large sum of money from Rashtrapati Bhavan, hinges on the deceit of mistaken identities that has as much logic as a two-year-old scribbling in his sleep. At one point, Tara is simultaneously a thief, the leader of a criminal gang, a street car racer, and the owner of a courier company. Sushant Singh Rajput, the movie’s male lead, gets the honour of being both a thief and an F1 racer. In case you didn’t eye-roll enough, consider a scene where this gang of thieves fool the security personnel at Rashtrapati Bhavan into thinking that the CCTV camera has frozen by standing still for five minutes. 

Even as the 120 minute inches close, no scene or subplot in Drive has any reason to exist, but still, it continues to labour on. After a point, the film resembles an unbearable loop of the betrayer becoming the betrayed becoming the betrayer becoming the betrayed ad infinitum, while characters say painfully obvious things like, “Greed is a sin,” as if it’s the epiphany of the millennum. None of it means anything. And if Netflix continues to be fed leftovers like Drive, chances are audiences will feel that nothing on the platform needs to mean anything.