Vishal Mishra’s Coffee With D could not be released as originally scheduled on January 6 because of alleged threats from Dawood Ibrahim. The fugitive criminal was reportedly angry that a Mumbai filmmaker had dared to make a spoof on him. It is not known whether Ibrahim, who is said to be holed up in Karachi, had sent similar threats the way of numerous other filmmakers who have based characters on him over the past few years.

What might Ibrahim make of Coffee With D? He might get annoyed with Zakir Hussain’s caricatured performance, which relies on the visual clichés of the floppy hairstyle and the penchant for wearing dark glasses indoors. Ibrahim might also be tickled pink at the suggestion that he is now on the skids, and nowhere close to the terror he was in the 1990s.

And even Ibrahim, who is said to be a movie buff, will guess in seconds that Coffee With D is a sketch for a television comedy that has unforgivably been stretched to 123 minutes.

The Karachi setting looks exactly like one of the countless Mumbai bungalows that are let out for movie shoots, while the television studio in which Arnab (Sunil Grover) harangues his guests looks about as lavish as a local cable operator’s set-up. Desperate to improve his ratings and save his channel from closure, Arnab manages to score an interview with the dreaded don, know only as D. But Arnab is more Labrador than bulldog in D’s presence, and the supposed battle of wits between the characters is what passes off for drama under Mishra’s inept direction.

Coffee With D aims for conversational comedy, but it never quite hits its stride. Grover, the television actor best known for his mimicry-based characters Gutthi and Rinku Bhabhi, is miscast as the hero of the enterprise. Grover doesn’t have the ability to command the big screen, and the absence of clever dialogue leaves him visibly floundering.

Made on a floor-level budget with a handful of characters who portray the Indian television media and the Mumbai underworld, Coffee With D has one halfway watchable performance. The dependable Pankaj Tripathi plays D’s henchman Girdhari with as much dignity as he can muster.

Condolences must be sent the way of Dipannita Sharma, who plays a permanently pouting television anchor who is having an affair with the network boss (Rajesh Sharma) while also harbouring the hots for Arnab. In exchange for accompanying Arnab to Karachi to interview D, she demands that Arnab sleep with her.

Forget what Dawood Ibrahim thinks of D. What does Arnab Goswami think of Arnab? This is about the only thing the nation wants to know.

Coffee With D.