Netflix’s latest show featuring Swara Bhasker in the lead has a few charming moments though is ridden by many cliches..
Noida-based Beanie Bhatnagar is leading a very uneventful life by her standards. Her profession in the corporate sector leaves her little time for anything else. In that little time she’s away from her desk, she feels stifled in a non-happening romance with a real estate professional Arun Kalra that has surprisingly lasted three years now. While she dreams of a career on the stage, all her aspirations come crashing down when Arun proposes marriage and before she could digest the news, the dates for her engagement are announced. Arun disses her interests in standup comedy and when it boils down to choosing between her partner and a career she always dreamt of, Beanie chooses the latter. After a broken engagement, a nasty voice note before she calls it a day with her corporate job, does she stand a chance as a comedian?
Excepting the fact that the protagonist in Bhaag Beanie Bhaag desires to be a standup comedian, the setup feels certainly familiar and relatable to a millennial audience. It’s about a 20s something girl who has to choose between marriage and passion, who’s confused between her exes, has parents who feel that her biological clock is ticking when what she wants to do is ‘just breathe’! Despite the Indian setting, this is a Hollywood chick-flick at heart and the writer of this review isn’t being offensive when he says that. The filmmakers Debbie Rao and Abi Verghese try to find the right blend of being cheesy, entertaining while allowing his characters to come of age through the show. The mix is mostly tolerable, but the conflicts in the protagonist’s life are more filmi than real and lack depth at places.
Bhaag Beanie Bhaag scores above the other Indian shows that have standup comedy in the centre stage because it makes a genuine attempt to understand the life of a comedian beyond the stage. It shows the occasionally-manipulative side to the profession where one is always looking to elicit a joke out of everyday situations, conversations, how one may sometimes get a little too desperate for feedback, be over-conscious on the stage and the pressure of being funny all the time gets to them. While the show effectively portrays how comedians evolve out of failures and setbacks, it doesn’t provide an accurate picture of their professional struggles.
As long as the show sticks to the protagonist’s personal journey, it works. However, the cinematic liberties become too many to handle as the show-makers chart her professional growth. The same event manager appears wherever Beanie does a show and it’s conveniently shown as a coincidence. The love life of Beanie is way too simplistic and convenient – she breaks up with a long-time partner, is on a rebound with another guy (which doesn’t work out, obviously!) and returns to her ex again. The parents are old-fashioned caricatures – so much that they confuse therapy with physiotherapy (and not psychotherapy), a conversation with them about sex can’t exist and they always resort to an astrologer to sort out their complications.
Bhaag Beanie Bhaag is enjoyable while portraying the bonhomie between friends and showcasing them as one’s extended family – the sisterhood between Beanie and her bestie Kapi is indeed refreshing. One wished the show explored more of the portions where Beanie and her mom shared a buddy-like connect too. One major issue with the show is that it uses every character as a comical opportunity and the clichés become tiring beyond a point – the corporate guy is always the big bore, the NRI guy is always an escapist, that a man-woman relationship needs to always take a romantic turn.
Swara Bhasker does get a lively, feisty character that grows on you over time. She may not be a natural as a standup comedian, but she does a terrific job in helping a viewer empathise with the character’s few highs and many lows. Varun Thakur is a good fit as the boring, work-obsessed, real estate professional. Though the character may have been written with more clarity, Varun does justice to his part while he lasts.
The American actor Ravi Patel (also the co-writer and producer of the show) is an instance of casting done right as the NRI who leaves a comfy life in the US for a career in comedy in India – right from the body language to his locational references and the disconnect with the vibe of India. Dolly Singh as Kapi is one of the most enjoyable characters in this universe – she is genuinely funny, empathetic and the camaraderie with Swara Bhasker is terrific. Girish Kulkarni and Mona Ambegaonkar get stereotypical characters as parents to the protagonist who refuse to sync with the times.
Bhaag Beanie Bhaag isn’t made on a lavish budget but the technicians do well to not make this seem like a handicap. The background score (by Salvage Audio Collective) gels with the flashy, sometimes dramatic and vibrant vibe of the show. The cinematographer Mridul Sen and the production designer Sarada Ramaseshan adorn the frames with adequate visual detailing to ring in authenticity to the setting. The writing, though pacy, has many narrative jumps and doesn’t give enough for the viewer to absorb the situation with enough clarity. The show is messy to start with, but finds its rhythm in its later episodes. Breezy and flashy all along, Bhaag Beanie Bhaag could have done with more originality and warmth.