Arjun Rampal, Jacqueline Fernandez, Ranbir Kapoor, a Malaysia setting, fashion magazine-suitable production design and costumes, and a grown-up romance – who needs a plot, really?

Vikramjit Singh’s debut Roy is ponderous, slow-burning to the point of being slow-moving, and too self-absorbed to notice that it isn’t going anywhere. But it always looks tip-top. The monochromatic tones with splashes of red and violet are out of a luxury living catalogue (cinematography by Himman Dhamija), Rampal and Fernandez wear their chic threads like second skin, and they look most convincing making small talk in the swimming pool or swapping philosophical thoughts while whizzing by the Malaysian countryside in posh cars.

Rampal plays Kabir, a cynical and commitment-phobe Bollywood writer and director who is in Malaysia to shoot the third part of a lucrative film franchise. Kabir is making up his script as he goes along, and is banging away at his typewriter like Barton Fink from the Coen brothers movie. He finally comes up with a thriller about an art thief (Kapoor) whose exploits are being splashed in the media. Kabir christens the thief Roy and start shooting. His entanglements with the willing but wary Ayesha (Fernandez), another filmmaker who is staying at his hotel, also inspire parts of the movie within the movie.

As weighty as a fashion spread

The expensive stuff that Singh has a genuine feel for comes at the expense of plot. Roy jerks into life and beauty like a gif off a Vogue spread. Its least effective bits involve Kapoor, who looks ill and ill at ease in all his scenes, possibly because his story track is forced to keep step with the slow dance between the attractive leads. Since the movie as well as the film within it being made by Kabir proceed at the same pace, a uniform dulling of the senses is inevitable.

Singh seems to be reaching for a discussion on art and artifice, the dark heart of creativity, the thin line between fact and fiction, and the perils faced by filmmakers who mine their personal lives for the movies. He has a whole 147 minutes to do so. Instead, he slows down the plot, allows us to gaze long and hard at his lovely looking leads and makes Rampal drop deep ones about love and life in his low rumble.

Some of the build-up is beautifully handled, and seems to suggest that something big and fulfilling lies just over the horizon. But then Singh takes you to the edge and reveals that you have a few more miles to go. Roy is like a long and languorous walk through the perfectly appointed grounds of an ultra-expensive hotel that is situated on a beach with white sand and very few human beings. It feels right and pleases the senses, but it comes at a price.