Mirch, directed by Vinay Shukla, is a delicious idea that unfortunately doesn’t translate into a sumptuous film. 

When more than one producer rejects his dark, artistic and ‘commercially unviable’ script, a struggling writer-director, Manav (played by Arunoday Singh) narrates a short story from the Panchatantra – about a woman caught red-handed with her lover by her husband – that finally has a potential producer hooked. Too short to work as a full-length feature, Manav comes up with four such stories, in which clever women manage to dupe their husbands despite being caught in the act.

These stories are smart and sexy, particularly the first two that are set in earlier times, and star Raima Sen and Konkona Sen Sharma as the adulterous wives who think on their feet. Both actresses return for the next two stories that are set in contemporary times, but these tales are considerably less mischievous than the previous two.

Mirch is let down by its slab-of-stone lead, Arunoday Singh who stars not only as the writer-director protagonist, but also appears as a recurring actor in the other stories. Between his wooden acting and his heavily accented dialogue delivery, you can’t help but think he was possibly cast because he was willing to show more skin than the ladies!

The film’s weakest link, in fact, is the far-fetched surface story of Manav, the desperate filmmaker who is surrounded by posters of Pyaasa and The 400 Blows and who reads Bergman on Bergman, but is urged by a producer to think more ‘commercially’. Sex is the only replacement for a big star in a Hindi film, he’s told, and is encouraged to come up with material that’s risqué – "bas vulgarity nahin honi chahiye", he’s warned.

Shukla ends the film with a puzzling finale where an incident from the producer’s own life mirrors one of the stories he’s just been narrated. It’s too convenient and gimmicky, and sticks out like a sore thumb.

Mirch has moments of great fun, thanks to credible performances by Raima Sen and Konkona Sen Sharma as sexually liberated women who’re unapologetic about their libidos. The film is enjoyable also for it’s fresh take on women’s emancipation, and for the cunning manner it plays the gender reversal card. But alas, much of it seems disjointed when viewed as a whole.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for director Vinay Shukla’s Mirch. A stronger male lead and some tighter editing might have turned this into a crackling film. As it stands now, it’s as appetizing as a half-cooked meal!

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