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Showtime Review: Nothing Khaas About It

March 08, 2024 10:29 IST
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Showtime is watchable but never engrossing, notes Sukanya Verma.

One of the most condescending remarks reserved for film critics by film-makers remains those who cannot make movies, write about them.

Showtime, produced by Karan Johar's digital offshoot Dharmatic, turns the thought on its head to explore what if those occupying ringside seats got a chance to take centrestage and call the shots.

There are some fascinating possibilities in creator Sumit Roy's premise, which looks at how show business is exactly that, a business that thrives on financial sustainability, exploiting art by all means as long as its end goals are met.

Whether there is truth in that, tricks of the trade do not make for juicy, cheeky and cheesy entertainment, which is all that Showtime aspires to be.

Caught in a crossfire of insider-outsider tussle that is part-soap opera, part satire, its choppy blend of Jackie Collins brand of sauciness and Madhur Bhandarkar style sensationalism never allows the first part of this four-episodes Web series become more than a sum of its parts. Expect the second half to drop in June, in keeping with the annoying tradition of breaking up a season in two parts.


Fictionalising the film industry's fickle, full of itself traits is something Dharmatic previously touched upon in the Madhuri Dixit Nene-led The Fame Game, but with its focus firmly on its thriller theme.

Recently, Vikramaditya Motwane's Jubilee recreated a bygone era of Hindi cinema, capturing its sweet and shady ways in dazzling detail.

There's always Zoya Akhtar's Luck By Chance to fall back on -- a gold standard in noting the hope and hypocrisy engulfing Bollywood's bittersweet universe.

Showtime's stereotypical approach doesn't display the complexity or ambition of either of the above. Directed by Mihir Desai and Archit Kumar, it's the varying degree of narcissism exhibited by its protagonists that determines its course of action.

One may get a sense of Karan Johar and Yash Chopra's warm equation in the voice-over that admits to learning all about 'love from your movies' but the veteran studio honcho whose bronze statues adorn the sprawling office campus is an obdurate oldie.

Viktor Khanna (Naseeruddin Shah), an ailing, waning shadow of his former self, isn't comfortable watching his artistic legacy become a commodity at the hands of his business-minded son, Raghu (Emraan Hashmi); cinema is 'dharam', not 'dhanda', he growls.

Raghu's arrogance and conviction refuse to bow down before anyone as he greenlights scripts he wishes to mint money from so there's enough cash flow for passion projects.

Trouble begins when Aram Nagar Ki Anna Hazare aka struggling journalist Mahika Nandy (Mahima Makwana) turns down a bribe for a good review and gives zero stars to his latest.

What you presume might be a take down on nepotism turns out to be the beginning of a family feud.

As per Showtime's flimsily established turnaround, Mahika and Raghu share blood ties, which go from bad to worse once an indignant Viktor leaves all control in Mahika's hands.

At the onset itself, Mahika proves to be a weak link in Mahima's wobbly portrayal.

Imagining a possibility where a rookie reviewer filling in for her boss would be deemed significant enough to warrant damage control is already a lot to buy into.

But her volte face from nervous nobody to lady boss in a matter of seconds on realising the value of Viktor's will is all kinds of implausible.

Mahima is out of her depth in a role that cries for spirit and gumption.

As her adversary at every step, Emraan Hashmi is tailor-made to play the cocky guy scoffing at anyone who dares disagree with his wry humour and curt manners.

What ensues is a battle of egos as Raghu and Mahika desperately woo an idiosyncratic superstar Armaan (a swell Rajeev Khandelwal) to headline a prestige period drama.

The latter cares too much about what Armaanians will say but balancing stardom and skills to perfection lets him have his cake and eat it too.

Growing crops at his Alibaug home in printed loungewear, Armaan must pick between two versions of a script, one that lets him be the action hero audience will love or the dramatic hotshot whom critics will rave about.

You may spot a one-off Ornob Loswami or Sharan Hadarsh in the mix but mostly Showtime is careful not to turn any filmi protagonist into a caricature of a specific someone.

Armaan may evoke SRK's stardom, Akshay Kumar's body language or Salman Khan's whimsy but he's built more as an idea than an individual.

Ditto for Raghu's girlfriend Yasmin (Mouni Roy, looking forward to her story in part two) is an item number dancer who wants to break into meaningful roles, only to learn connections aren't enough.

Armaan's National award-winning wife (Shriya Saran), Mahika's aspiring scriptwriter beau (Vishal Vashishtha) and Raghu's potential financier (Vijay Raaz) add arcs within their self-absorbed personas.

Films about tinsel town brim in gyaan and astute observations.

Showtime has its moments.

One that amused me most is a producer telling a movie star, 'Star superstar tab banta hai jab paan masala ka brand ambassador ban jaaye: Man of the masses.'

A certain 'Shah' is credited for those pearls of wisdom.

The overenthusiastic nature of celebrities bursts out in spurts of spontaneous wit. Like a rapper quipping 'end credits?' when a film-maker declines his offer to sing for his historical drama.

But the deliberately tacky movie titles of the projects lined up -- Pyaar Dangerous, Screw Dheela, Tu Toh Gaya, Disco Dhadkan -- are neither mocking nor comical.

Showtime fares best when it is not bothered about stirring a hornet's nest and digging a little more than skin deep to document the oddball workings of the industry. Like schedules going haywire owing to insecure co-stars, writers and directors sidestepped by star producers at narrations or how the Montus of the world get their money bag daddies to plan their launchpads.

Those up to date on Koffee With Karan will get the in-joke references to 'guts' and 'putra moh' but outsiders will find it hard to believe Bollywood converses like mafia.

Although the honest truth is that the lowbrow lingo is a reality.

Why the uppity converse like thugs is a mystery but it's something I've noticed first hand.

As is the over-familiar paparazzi screaming 'bhabhi' at any leading lady after she ties the knot or press conferences turning into classes in the art of diplomacy or the local action director versus Hollywood imports friction.

Despite its eventful account, Showtime's energy level is disappointingly low.

A lot is packed in around Raghu and Mahika's face-off -- from right-wingers threatening to boycott Bollywood to scenes of feminism but all of it seems forced into the narrative.

Showtime appears to be headed towards many more bombshells, betrayals and breakdowns. But with only four episodes out and a loose sense of a conflict, it's hard to form a definite opinion about a show that is always watchable but never engrossing.

Showtime streams on Disney+Hotstar.

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