Despite its suggestive title, Thai Massage wants to be a family-friendly sex comedy. Atmaram is as spiritual as his name. This Ujjain resident might be a sexagenarian in pursuit of at least one sexual experience before he turns 70, but the Hindi-language movie doesn’t want us to judge him.
Extenuating circumstances are created to ensure that Atmaram (Gajraj Rao) is always regarded as a harmless bloke in search of fun, rather than a late-blooming satyr. Avuncular, pure-hearted and easily startled, Atmaram creates portraits using his typewriter, is a devoted father and grandfather, and is innocent of simpler ways to address his need.
Atmaram’s urge is ascribed to the very recent discovery of erectile dysfunction. (The concern over poor performance from a man who hasn’t had sex in 22 years, as he repeatedly reminds us, isn’t clear.) A film on erectile dysfunction already exists – Shubh Mangal Saavdhan. Elderly men chasing after nubile women have already paraded through such films as Sabse Bada Sukh and Shaukeen.
Yet, director Mangesh Hadawale, who has also written the screenplay, perseveres. With the help of local fixer Santulan (Divyenndu), Atmaram lands up in Bangkok. There’s so much more to Thailand’s capital than its sex industry. But why lose the opportunity to land a cheap joke or, for that matter, refrain from sending Atmaram to any other city within the vastness of India?
Even those who are looking for basic narrative logic will find it hard to believe that Atmaram can’t even sneeze without his family members finding out but procures a passport and plans a clandestine Bangkok vacation. The dated concept might have worked despite its contrivances if it delivered on either of its two promises.
If the sex is strictly vegetarian, the comedy is about as interesting as Atmaram himself. Carry on Uncle it isn’t.
Innocence is apparently the biggest aphrodisiac – possible perhaps only in an Indian film. Any hope that we will get an even halfway plausible peek into an old man’s sexual fantasies dies when Atmaram reaches Bangkok and collapses in self-lacerating guilt.
A completely wasted track revolves around Atmaram’s nosy neighbour (Vibha Chibber), who has the habit of bustling in at inopportune moments. A film less convinced of its conceit might have made something of this possible coupling, but that film isn’t Thai Massage.
Gajraj Rao, perpetually bug-eyed and overdoing the cute old man effect, tries his valiant best to show that Atmaram is having a good time. More convincing is Divyenndu as the seedy Santulan, who is unfortunately stuck in Ujjain while Atmaram tries to go “boom-boom” in Bangkok. The film owes Divyenndu a paid vacation east.