Some ideas translate into interesting, 2-hour films. But some ideas, though translated on screen, make you feel that they're best suited for television. That's what you experience when you watch VIA DARJEELING.
It's pretty okay to be different, but when you're looking at the Indian audiences and the kind of cinema they tilt towards, you cannot be too experimental. In that sense, VIA DARJEELING holds appeal for a tiny segment of moviegoers here. It's more for discussions amongst friends or those sitting in a coffee shop or at a friend's place on a rainy night [exactly what the characters do in VIA DARJEELING].
The story revolves around Ankur [Kay Kay Menon] and Rimli [Sonali Kulkarni], a newly-wed couple on their honeymoon in Darjeeling. The story takes a turn when Ankur disappears on the eve of their departure. The cop, Robin Datt [Vinay Pathak], tries to trace Ankur, but can't.
The suspects are a taxi driver Ankur had fought with and a mysterious looking man Bonny [Parvin Dabas], whom Rimli thought was following her throughout their trip in Darjeeling.
Two years later, Inspector Datt relates this story to a few friends [Rajat Kapoor, Simone Singh, Proshanth Narayanan, Sandhya Mridul] on a rainy night; they are intrigued by this story and question him about the outcome. But he has no answers. Fascinated by this story, they start a tale about the possible outcome and all take part to give their own versions where personalities and motif change.
VIA DARJEELING follows the format of one story, but multiple versions/endings. The problem here is that the main story [as narrated by Vinay Pathak] is incomplete, so all assumptions and interpretations don't look convincing or cut ice with the viewer.
Had the director [Arindam Nandy] or writers [Ranjan Das, Arindam Nandy] made Pathak reveal the outcome to the main story in the end, after various versions are told, perhaps, it might've appealed then. Yet, one of the versions -- narrated by Rajat Kapoor -- holds your interest, but the versions narrated by Simone Singh and Proshanth Narayanan get monotonous.
Director Arindam Nandy's choice of the subject may not hold universal appeal, but it does hold your attention at times. The songs are well woven in the narrative. Cinematography is alright, but the beauty of Darjeeling hasn't been captured to the optimum on celluloid. Dialogues [Atul Sabharwal] are in sync with the mood of the film.
The performances are neat. Kay Kay is, as always, perfect. Sonali Kulkarni is the scene stealer here. Parvin Dabas looks right for the part. Vinay Pathak is frst-rate. Simone Singh and Rajat Kapoor, both handle their parts with precision. Proshanth Narayanan is topnotch. Sandhya Mridul is fiery.
On the whole, VIA DARJEELING is more of an experiment. At the box-office, it's a dud!