Dev Anand Cariappa is an angst-bitten young man in severe need of an upper. His family-owned coffee plantation has been sold to pay off debts. He hasn’t recovered from a romantic relationship that tanked several years ago. He has a tense relationship with his mother and a strange bond with a Bengali Venus. He is about as pleasant as coffee left on the gas for too long.

Manu Warrier’s pretty-looking debut feature follows the adventures of this unpleasant character (Arjun Mathur), who returns to his former plantation to work as a manager. Coincidence is Dev’s very shadow. The plantation was recently bought over by Srinivas (Mohan Kapoor), the husband of his former flame Anika (Sugandha Garg). Of course, Srinivas doesn’t know about Anika and Dev, and the estate seems large enough for the former lovers to rekindle their relationship. Srinivas and Dev are competing for the perfect coffee bloom – or the moment when all ingredients fall into place for the flawless brew – but this achievement escapes the characters and the movie.

Perhaps this has to do with the fact that most of the characters created by director and co-writer Sharat Parvathavani are under-written and not rounded enough to justify the complexity of their experiences. Dev’s claim on Anika is as selfish as his desire to take back his estate. He is so unreasonable that he expects Anika to leave her husband and waltz off with him into the woods, and Anika strangely plays along with his conceit. She seems happy enough with Srinivas, a former financial analyst turned gentleman-farmer who runs about his estate with the glee of a child in a candy shop, so her reactions to Dev’s aggressive moves is as inexplicable as the presence of the Bengali Venus (Ishwari Bose-Bhattacharya), who is straight out of a wet sari song and simpers accordingly.

Arjun Mathur seems just the right fit as Dev – perhaps a bit too much so. Mathur’s first screen role of note was as a struggling and earnest theatre actor in Zoya Akhtar’s ensemble Bollywood homage Luck by Chance in 2009. Ever since, the actor has specialised in playing angst-bitten and intensely coiled characters in independent features. Mathur’s talent for naturalistic acting is undeniable, but his ability to be down at the mouth is so effective that it is often hard to sympathise with his characters. Dev is immature, self-centred and unlikeable. His deliverance comes in spurts, and is ultimately both unconvincing and unearned.