Before one proceeds with the review, let's clear a myth pertaining to this film: The promotions as also the title may give an impression that MIXED DOUBLES is an English film. The fact is, it's not; it's a pucca Hindi venture. Now, the analysis...
The concept of wife swapping isn't new. Two Hindi films have tackled the issue in the recent past: AJNABEE [2001; Akshay, Bobby, Kareena, Bipasha] and FUN - CAN BE DANGEROUS SOMETIMES [2005; Aryan Vaid, Siddharth Koirala, Payal Rohatgi]. Coincidentally, both AJNABEE and FUN turned into murder mysteries in the post-interval portions and were laced with songs and the works, catering more to the aam junta.
MIXED DOUBLES has a realistic approach towards the issue [wife swapping], but is laced with several humorous moments. The humor, witty one-liners and double entendres succeed in raising a chuckle most of the times, partly because they're well penned [Anurag Kashyap, Rajat Kapoor] and also because they seem straight out of life.
But there's a slip between the cup and the lip. The film talks of a middle class man's dilemma, but the theme is not the type that would appeal to that very segment of moviegoers. In fact, the orthodox variety will find the concept alien and too hot to handle. The theme may appeal to the elite or the multiplex junta that has developed a taste for experimental themes, but even this segment may not give it their whole-hearted approval.
There's another reason why MIXED DOUBLES doesn't work. If the first hour is remarkable, with the husband 'discovering' the concept of wife swapping and convincing his wife to 'co-operate' with him, the second hour of the film, when the couples [Ranvir Shorey, Konkona Sen Sharma/Rajat Kapoor, Koel Purie] actually exchange partners, the film falls to an all-time low. The penultimate 25 minutes just don't appeal.
To sum up, you saunter out of the movieplex with mixed feelings for MIXED DOUBLES. The meal [first hour] was delicious, but the dessert [second hour] bland and flavorless.
Sunil [Ranvir Shorey] and Malati [Konkona Sen Sharma], mid 30s, live in Mumbai with their young son. A marriage of choice, it is clear that the early years were very happy. Now they have the usual indicators of a good middle class life: Double income, single kid, nice apartment, decent job, some good friends, washing machine, desktop computer, car. But while there is still comfort, after ten years, the spark is gone.
Boredom and complacency can drive a partner to adultery. Sunil and Malati love each other. Neither would dream of cheating. But it is clear that something needs to be done. Life has become a chore. He does, or at least tries to, do his part. But even making love to his wife has become a dreary duty, one best avoided.
And then it all changes. Sunil is suddenly loving and amorous, he is no longer bored. Malati is pleased until Sunil tells her of his new obsession: Wife swapping. She is shocked. His plan is deplorable. She will bear no part in it. But Sunil cannot do this alone. He cajoles, he pleads, he yells and finally, he tricks her into capitulation.
Sunil and Malati meet the other 'consenting adults': Vinod [Rajat Kapoor] and Kalpana [Koel Purie]. The date is set. The couples meet over drinks and dinner. But do things go as per plans?
You don't expect much from MIXED DOUBLES partly because there's not much hype surrounding the film. But what you get, in the first hour at least, goes beyond your expectations. The dilemma of the couple after a few years of marriage has been depicted in the most realistic manner. The bedroom talk is out in the open. That's why it works in a big way.
The film maintains your interest till the couples meet over for drinks and dinner. And then, when you really expect the 'unthinkable' to happen, the film suddenly becomes a typical Hindi film. From the writing point of view, Ranvir and Koel's portions in the bedroom take the graph of the film down. Is Koel kinky? Or does she have a fetish for airlines? Because, instead of getting into the 'act', what they actually do is play games: She's an air hostess and he's a traveler. What was that, director sahab? Did the writer run out of ideas at this point? Or did the writer suddenly realize that it was getting too hot for the Indian audiences?
The end is equally bizarre. The husband actually blames his wife for indulging in adultery and a few minutes later, they [the couple] return to their home and get into the routine once again. Maza nahin aaya!
Director Rajat Kapoor gets it right in the first half, but not in the second. Being the captain of the ship, he ought to be blamed for choosing a sloppy climax, but as far as the execution of the subject is concerned, a number of sequences are brilliantly handled. The pyjama sequence or the one when an office colleague reveals about his wife's infidelity to Ranvir and Saurabh Shukla are simply hilarious. Cinematography [Rafey Mahmood] goes well with the mood of the film. Dialogues [Anurag Kashyap, Rajat Kapoor] are straight out of life.
MIXED DOUBLES belongs to Ranvir Shorey from start to end. The actor is in terrific form and actually carries the film on his shoulders. Here's an actor who has the scope to be the thinking audiences' favorite. Konkona Sen Sharma is splendid yet again. The versatile actor adds yet another feather to her impressive repertoire.
Rajat Kapoor and Koel Purie don't get much scope, but are proficient nevertheless. Saurabh Shukla is wasted. The actor enacting the role of Ranvir and Saurabh's colleague is excellent. Ash Chandler, in a brief but significant role, is effective. Naseeruddin Shah [Konkona's father] is exceptional in that one scene.
On the whole, MIXED DOUBLES has a bold theme, but a subject matter like this has its limitations: If the orthodox might shun it, the open-minded/forward-thinking moviegoers wouldn't embrace it completely either. At the box-office, the film has been released with as good as zilch publicity. A multiplex film primarily, its business at multiplexes may be slightly better during the evening shows of weekends only. Sadly, that's not enough!