A good way to spend a Friday night is to curl up with a nice Bollywood movie on a streaming platform…especially since theaters are still a no-go, thanks to the pandemic. So, this Friday, drink in hand, I took a chance on debutante filmmaker Taranveer Singh’s “Tuesdays & Fridays” – the latest rom-com to hit Netflix. However, this millennial love fest lacks personality.
Obviously modeled on “Friends With Benefits” and “No Strings Attached,” Tuesdays & Fridays” is besotted with the idea of delivering a standard Bollywood romance to ever really say something worthy of its own.
The film is set in London, but naturally, which is shorthand for implying that its universe will be populated with protagonists who lead manicured, Instagram-worthy lives for whom money never seems to be an issue. Varun (new talent Anmol Dhillon, yesteryear actress Poonam Dhillon’s gorgeous son) and Sia (newcomer Jhataleka Malhotra, Femina Miss India International, 2014), two attractive millennials, who don’t have jobs as much as they have mysteriously successful designations: he is a “best-selling author” and she is a “successful lawyer to the rich and famous.”
Although, a writer, Varun doesn’t do much writing. In fact, he doesn’t even read. He waxes lyrical about a dying bookstore, but doesn’t bother to purchase a book. Sia is the sort of lawyer whose expertise lies in augmenting complex dating scenarios. “I’ve added an exit clause,” she tells a friend proudly, explaining how both she and Varun are free to tap out of their deal. Really, is this what passes for a high-profile lawyer these days? It goes without saying that they are good at their jobs although working doesn’t seem to really be a priority for either.
Varun, comes to Sia seeking help with the movie rights for his book. And their love-story comes with needless complications of its own, mainly centered around Varun’s apparent “commitment-phobia.” Feeling the tug of attraction, Varun (who has a 7-week expiry on every relationship) and recently-single Sia, whose looking for a long-term relationship agree to be romantic partners only on two days of the week: Tuesdays and Fridays, obvious much?
On the other days of the week, they’re just friends and free to dip their toes in the rest of the dating pool that’s out there. Big surprise, their terms and conditions can’t really forestall the eventuality of them falling in love. Now, who saw that coming? This is the kind of film where two lovers pine away because they can, not because they have to.
Essentially, it’s a non-story masquerading as a love story. If the idea was to suggest the myriad ways in which millennials, ensconced in a language of casual flings in the age of unlimited options self-sabotage their own romantic lives, then “Tuesdays & Fridays” misses arriving at that by several miles.
The premise is thin, the dialogues laughably insipid, the acting is gloriously sub-par, and the cliches are plentiful. There are too many characters and tracks, scrambling for space and attention in a limited runtime. For example, there’s Sia’s teenage half-sister yearning to lose her virginity on her 18th birthday, her gay friend pretending to be her ex-boyfriend to fool the world and Varun’s single mother (played by stalwart Anuradha Patel, completely underutilized here), with her very weak backstory. Most of it comes like a flash in the pan, not only taking the focus away from Sia and Varun’s fledgling love-story, but also making it a problem of plenty and very distracting.
Dhillon seems uncomfortable front of the camera and is grossly incompetent in the emotional scenes, turning in a performance that has him just existing in front of the camera instead of acting. Malhotra doesn’t fare any better, over-emoting to a point of exhaustion. The screenplay is so shorn of charm that it provides not even one single reason to warrant any investment in these two characters.
The concept is novel for Bollywood, and if done right may have inspired commitment-phobic millennials to fall in love, on a ‘trial basis.’ but it struggles to sustain the film. Both Varun and Sia swing wildly between overacting and underplaying the emotion. Debutant Dhillon is no match for career charmers like Ashton Kutcher and Saif Ali Khan. There’s no urgent chemistry between the leads, and each is stuck on the issues that arise from an absent and distant father— Bollywood’s cliched reason for ‘commitment-phobia’. Dhillon and Malhotra’s performances are so mediocre and forgettable that they might have just set a new bar for dud debuts.
The film is occasionally saved by its supporting cast. Niki Walia and Parmeeth Sethi are spot on and engaging as Sia’s estranged parents. Kamini Khanna’s Pakistani café owner role reminded me of her performance in “Kal Ho Na Ho” (2003), back when the NRI-comedy genre held some sway. It was also fun to catch Parvin Dabas — who mostly played eligible bachelors in his day — turn up here as Walia’s groom-to- be.
London doesn’t add much to a film primarily set in quaint coffee shops. What was missing were stunning cityscapes from a super-chic and urbane canvas. This could have been set in Café Coffee Day in he mean streets of Mumbai (where the film starts for some unearthly reason and then hot-foots it to London…never to return) and it wouldn’t have changed the movie one bit…of course the stars may have missed out on that nice “phoren” trip!
Despite the Bhansali Productions tag, the film is visually drab. At one point, Varun, lounging in a jacuzzi spa with Sia, asks her what she hates most in movies. Sia stands up and strikes a Shah Rukh Khan pose. Elsewhere, they show up as Salman Khan and Sridevi at a party. The references aren’t clever, but they did manage to get a chuckle out of me. For a love story though, the music of ‘Tuesdays and Fridays’ is a huge letdown. Its ear-piercing soundtrack, auto-tuned by Tony Kakkar, mistakes noise for music. If done better it could have lifted the movie a notch higher. And to top it off, the few songs it has are all forgettable and placed randomly. Owing to these unnecessary sound and character tracks, after a point, even a short runtime feels wearisome.
“Tuesdays and Fridays” is a luxury-romance, so light and loose in its plot and conflict, that it barely registers as a film! Perhaps, the best way to describe “Tuesdays & Fridays” is that it is an Imtiaz Ali film without any personality. “Tuesdays & is playing on Netflix and for your sanity should be a hard pass.
Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters andPhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at OakGrove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.