Mainstream Hindi cinema might be slow to catch on to the complexities of a rapidly changing Indian society, but it does understand easy slogans like “Follow your dreams” or “Get out of the rat race”. Self-help books are bestsellers, so somebody must have picked up Varun Agarwal’s Chetan Bhagat-ish novel How I Braved Anu Aunty and Co-Founded a Million Dollar Company and thought it would make a perfect film for Gen Z to understand the gig economy, social media marketing and smartphone-based apps.
After Nandita Das’s sombre Zwigato comes the cheery Tumse Na Ho Payega, in which a soulless corporate lifestyle is contrasted with the joys of being your own boss. The Disney+ Hotstar release has been directed by first-timer Abhishek Sinha from a script by Nitesh Tiwari and Nikhil Mehrotra.
Through the lazy narrative devices of voiceovers and directly addressing the audience, the sad story of Gaurav (Ishwak Singh) is revealed. He is disgruntled because of his dead-end job – though for many, the decent salary and a partying lifestyle would be living the dream.
Gaurav’s bigger problem is Anu Aunty (Meghna Malik), whose overachieving son Arjun (Karan Jotwani) is zooming up the ladder. Anu’s boasts to Gaurav’s mother (Amala Akkineni) denigrate Gaurav as an unambitious loser.
Arjun also has by his side Devika (Mahima Makwana), whom Gaurav has crushed on since school. Gaurav’s coping mechanism is venting to his friends Mal (Gaurav Pandey) and Vaghela (Gurpreet Salini) at the bar or the tea stall.
Grumbling about bad canteen food gives Gaurav the idea of supplying home-made tiffins to “bhukkad bachelors” working in Mumbai’s corporate hubs. This would have been a great pre-pandemic start-up plan. But now that anyone who can hold a ladle is a home chef, surely this plot device is late to the party?
As if going into any detail would bore the film’s attention-deficit target audience, Sinha races through the predictable struggle-success-conflict-loss-recovery graph this kind of story would follow, because where else could it go? Greedy investor (Parmeet Sethi) is the villain; the cooking moms are the angels (the food shots are delectable). Gaurav and Gang are given a lesson in sidestepping the mirage of too much too soon. Even the friendly tea seller (Omkar Das Manikpuri) offers free beverages and seed money.
The mix of a few chuckles and more sermons on “How Not to be an Arjun” is saved by the film’s relatively short runtime and the energy of its young cast – although Ishwak Singh has done better in previous projects. Devika, who has a very “today” job of a social media manager for celebrities, is interesting because she is as aggressive as the guys and treats a relationship with an upwardly mobile guy as a goal to be checked on her list of achievement. And to that chilled-out chaiwala, who already knows what they teach you at business school, full respect.