On the face of it, the web series Boygiri, which available on Balaji Telefilm’s newly launched app AltBalaji, is a provocative show about yuppies in Mumbai. One of the lead characters, Manjot (Adhaar Khurana), is gay; parents buy sexual aids at a child’s birthday party; characters teach other to twerk as a form of flirting. But this is merely lip service to outré themes, none of which is treated with any sincerity over the 10 episodes of the first season.
The show focuses on six central male characters. Each episode revolves around an event or a function, such as a school reunion, a close friend’s funeral, or a trip to see Mumbai Indians at Wankhede Stadium. The stadium trip has one of the show’s few well-fleshed out moments when Manjot and Mantra (Ravi Sinha) get angry at Advait for suggesting that India’s most beloved cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar, might not be all that he is made out to be.
The first episode opens with Advait (Chaitnya Sharma), a Barney Stinson-type playboy without the charisma, telling his school friends Manjot and Pragnesh (Divyang Thakkar) about the various types of sex he enjoys: from breakup to makeup. We have heard this conversation before and the characters themselves express frustration with the theme in episode 2 when Advait invites Pragnesh out to a bar so they can talk about “other things” apart from sex.
Provocation is derived from not only sexuality, but also from social issues such as dowry and the beef ban. The second episode opens at a police station because Manjot and Bandah (Ajeet Singh Palawat), whose attempts at setting up a restaurant called Maxi Punjab become the show’s over-arching arc, have been accused by a disgruntled employee of selling beef. In episode 7, Pragnesh’s cousin is getting married and the groom’s family demands dowry by sending Bhadirao (Amey Wagh) as the messenger. Both times, the tension created by these issues isn’t used for comedic value, and because the filmmakers lack the courage of their convictions, the tension is allowed to dissipate.
The greatest missed chance comes towards the end of the series. Bandha, who is portrayed as the typical Punjabi man who wears his heart on his sleeve, gets into fights, whose idea of flirting is extra-legal, and wants to become a Punjabi hip-hop star like Badshaah or Honey Singh, has a problem with homosexuals. This familiar dynamic could have been explored to reveal a larger truth about the issue, even if by poking fun at the situation, but the treatment is trite.
A peculiar running gag through the series, which also suggests that it is aimed at a specific audience, is the frequent references to the brilliant Marathi web-series Casting Couch with Amey and Nipun. Amey Wagh stars in Boygiri as Bhadirao, a fixer who has connections all over the city and seems to be involved in a variety of unsavoury businesses while cast-member Nipun Dharmadhikari and director Sarang Sathaye make cameos.
Although limited by his material, Wagh who is at ease as Bhadirao or “Bhadi”, becomes the shows wildcard and most interesting character. Otherwise, the show is filled with scenes that are missing laughs, largely because the writers rely on lazy setups involving mistaken homosexual identities and refer to masturbation as “playing your own flute”. The characters all speak in a cheesy hip-hop lingo without a trace of irony. Everyone is everyone else’s bro, and the over-written dialogue means that the characters voice everything they feel and think: “I ain’t no homo.” “Nice pad, bro”.
The show creates a large canvass for the creators to experiment with. Over time, the characters move past their original cliched characterisations and actually have more than one facet to their personalities. But every time there is a chance to take a step forward, the show goes backward. Like its juvenile characters, the series refuses to grow up and take an adult attitude to life.