Santosh Sivan’s Mumbaikar is a throwback to the city-set ensemble film in which disparate characters are thrown together by coincidence and the screenwriter’s contrivance. It’s the kind of movie in which Mumbai is a collection of a handful of streets, every character irrespective of their economic status can be found drinking in the same bar, and everyone keeps running into everyone else merely by turning the corner.

Himanshu Singh’s screenplay braids together the stories of a young job seeker (Hridhu Haroon), the kindly manager who interviews him (Tanya Maniktala) and her proudly unemployed admirer (Vikrant Massey). Their paths intersect with a gangster who loves shiny shirts and chomps on vada pao to prove his local credentials (Ranvir Shorey), a bunch of wannabe kidnappers, a driver (Sanjay Mishra) and a police officer (Sachin Khedekar).

Fortunately for Mumbaikar, there is also Vijay Sethupathi’s good-tempered Tamilian, who has sauntered into the megapolis with dreams of being a gangster. Sethupathi’s mischievous Manu, having quickly picked up the Mumbai hack of faking it till you make it, is the most charming thing about this dated, frequently pointless and enervating exercise.

Santosh Sivan, who has also shot the film, opts for a choppy, surprisingly plain visual style, which includes shots lasting a few seconds and a camera constantly on the move without quite knowing where to go. The 123-minute movie’s big idea – mistaken identity can lead to happy happenstance – never arrives, overpowered as it is by banal observations on what it means to be a Mumbai resident.

Mumbaikar (2023).