There’s a reason I’m deeply suspicious of Bollywood rom-coms; they tend to start off promisingly but almost always lose direction around the halfway mark. The quirky humor you enjoyed so much vanishes shortly after intermission, only to make way for melodramatic rona dhona. It’s the same complaint nine times out of ten. Occasionally something clever will come along, like the grossly underrated Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge, that knows exactly how to walk the tightrope, but most times we must settle for what’s best from among what’s available – like Hasee Toh Phasee a few months ago.
 
Amit Sahni Ki List, starring Vir Das, could’ve been a terrific romantic comedy, but it falls short on account of the writer’s conservative thinking. So much of it feels fresh and enjoyable despite sticking faithfully to formula, until it eventually goes down the same beaten bath in its last act, as if too scared to stick its neck out.
 
Vir Das is fancy investment banker Amit Sahni, who’s having trouble finding the ideal girl who ticks off every box on his proverbial list. After a series of underwhelming dates with assorted women, he meets Mala (Vega Tamotia), a free-spirited tomboy with a passion for adventure sports and a soft spot for her pet pug. She’s nothing like the girl on his list should be, and yet Amit finds himself falling for her. But shortly before they are to be married, conflict shows up in the form of curvaceous Devika (Anandita Nayar), who’s smart, successful and smoking hot – in short, everything that’s down on the list.
 
First-time director Ajay Bhuyan keeps things breezy and light through the first hour, striking a nice balance between humor and understated emotion in the scenes between Amit and Mala. Using interesting devices like freeze frames, thought bubbles, and comic strips, he takes us on a familiar yet engaging journey through various rom-com clichés, until the hiccups start post-intermission when the thinness of the plot becomes a real problem.
 
Vir Das, who has had considerable success in one-note comic roles in such films as Delhi Belly and Go Goa Gone, gets an opportunity to slip into leading man mode here, and occasionally flex his dramatic muscles too. It’s a warm, likeable performance constricted only by the limiting scope of the script. The climax plays on interminably, and the film suffers on account of way too many songs. But there are little pleasures to be had – the consistently witty dialogue, Amit’s too-cool-to-be-true mom who speaks almost exclusively in abbreviations and emoticons, and his childhood pal who takes great pleasure in his sufferings.
 
For getting these bits just right, I’m going with two-and-half out of five for Amit Sahni Ki List. Go in with modest expectations and perhaps you won’t be disappointed.

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