Made in China Review: Rajkummar Rao, Boman Irani Wasted in a Movie that Lacks Originality

Bollywood

Made in China Review: Rajkummar Rao, Boman Irani Wasted in a Movie that Lacks Originality

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

A middle-class hero, whose luck and life doesn’t agree with him in ways he would like it to, stumbles upon a moneymaking opportunity that involves matters relating to sex and reproduction. His partner-in-crime is an eccentric but well-meaning doctor who runs a clinic. Almost overnight, this hero’s fate and finances undergo a makeover. But trouble arises when his family discovers his secret. If we were to play a game called “Guess the movie by its plot,” chances are that you’d say that this one sounds exactly like Shoojit Sircar’s Vicky Donor. That wouldn’t be a wrong guess – it does and it is. But it is also the plot of Mikhil Musale’s abominable Made in China.

That makes Made in China the second Hindi film this year which evidently mines the ingenious Vicky Donor’s deft balance between comedy and social commentary as inspiration. Last month, Raaj Shaandaliya’s bloated Dream Girl (that coincidentally starred Ayushmann Khuranna) tried borrowing these very beats with little success. Although, it’d be remiss to not acknowledge that the film’s premise of a man masquerading as a woman employee at an adult friendship call centre betrayed promise. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a similar silver lining in the laborious 159 minutes of Made in China. Even to say that it is a copy of Vicky Donor would be giving the film a compliment it does not deserve. Instead of building on the themes of Vicky Donor, Made in China merely exploits it as a lazy formula, unbothered to even embellish its proceedings with any purpose. 

Set in Ahmedabad, Made in China revolves around Raghuvir Mehta (Rajkummar Rao), a middle-class bumbling businessman whose CV boasts of a string of 13 failed ventures (one of which bizarrely involves rearing an Emu for its eggs). After a trip to China, which the film uses as an excuse to peddle unfunny stereotypes about the Chinese, Raghu starts an underground delivery service of “Tiger Magic Soup”. The film explains it as an aphrodisiac for men that guarantees maximum sexual satisfaction, even though it remains unclear on whether it is also an antidote to erectile dysfunction. 

The instantaneous popularity of this magic soup stems from the fact that it is being endorsed and prescribed by Dr Vardhi (an embarrassing Boman Irani), the local sexologist – modelled on Dr Mahinder Watsa – whom Raghu signs up as a business partner. Thrown into the mix is the obliviousness of Raghu’s family about his business, unnecessary flashbacks, a hint of societal humiliation, and a murder investigation that leads to the setting up of a totally unwarranted inquiry commission. The murder in question, remains unsolved.

In every way imaginable, Made in China suffers from what I like to call the “Maddock-istation” of Hindi comedies.

Not even one moment of Made in China feels earned and there’s really no reason for the filmmaking to be so smug, given that Musale doesn’t betray any desire to invent or subvert the predictability of the familiar plot onscreen. All he does is lift existing sequences off far superior films and passes it off as storytelling: There’s one school monologue that has a solid 3 Idiots hangover and the film’s abrupt commentary on sexual health is a cheap knockoff of Shubh Mangal Savdhaan. The result is a drab film that is an unholy trifecta of caricaturish overacting, juvenile dialogues, and a headache-inducing background score. 

In every way imaginable, Made in China suffers from what I like to call the “Maddock-istation” of Hindi comedies. After the unprecedented success of Hindi Medium and Stree, the Dinesh Vijan-led production house has almost made a habit out of greenlighting films that stretch a one-line gag into an extended social comedy of errors. As a result, these films (Luka Chuppi, Arjun Patiala) feel packaged and not organically written, more interested in making a statement than doing justice to a story. Made in China is no different: It’s a film that on one hand wants to give out the illusion that it is invested in revealing the double standards that Indians harbour when it comes to sex. But on the other hand, defeats its purpose by outrightly dismisssing sex diseases with a daft climactic reveal that hinges on the justification that “70 per cent of sex diseases are psychological”. 

Perhaps the biggest evidence of its inefficiency lies in how Made in China carelessly undermines its actors. The cast includes Gajraj Rao, Sumeet Vyas, and Paresh Rawal, who are hidden away in the background, abruptly recalled whenever there is a need for a quick punchline. The screechy Mouni Roy shows up whenever the writers feel the need to plug in their progressiveness by showing a woman smoking, drinking, or yelling at her husband, and Rajkummar Rao, a sincere performer, is one-note. There’s really no justification for the film’s existence except for the fact that it can. That is a special talent that seems like it is made only in Bollywood.

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