A trio of winning newcomers and spirited direction from tyro helmer Saurabh Varma make this Bollywood hacker comedy worth a click.
The up-tempo comic cyber-thriller “Mickey Virus” is not without antecedents. This likable new Bollywood youth comedy about a close knit group of hacker/slacker screw-ups in New Delhi owes a fair amount to both “3 Idiots,” the 2009 Aamir Khan film about students at the Indian Institute of Technology, and to “Delhi Belly,” a 2011 gross-out comedy (Bollywood’s first) that was set in a notably grubby version of the same milieu. In India, where the pic opened to decent but unspectacular box-office over the weekend, it is also being compared with the hit 2012 comedy “Vicky Donor.”
But while it’s not really anything new, “Mickey Virus” feels fresh, wit a pervasive no-sweat attitude. The leading players are all brand new to movie acting: Popular TV host Manish Paul (who could be Johnny Knoxville’s Hindu kid brother) has the tile role as a genius hacker recruited by the police, reality TV star Elli Avram is his dream-girl love interest, and gifted snarler Puja Gupta is his “tomboy” hacker-chick pal (a la Alison Pill as the crabby drummer in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”). That all three of these novice actors give such relaxed and confident performers is a credit to the movie’s first-time writer-director, former marketing specialist Saurabh Varma.
With his marketing background, one might expect Varma to have a flashy visual style reminiscent of directors such as Ridley and Tony Scott (or India’s Mani Ratnam and Sanjay Leela Bhansali), who apprenticed in commercials. Instead, he stages dialogue-driven scenes of scheming and complaining that only occasionally wear out their welcome.
The underlying thriller plot in “Mickey Virus,” in which an elusive international gang conspires to drain a bank account full of “black money” (the fruits of political corruption), is impressively complicated for a comedy. During the final hour or so, so many high-strung characters are shouting elaborate explanations at each other that we begin to wonder how much of this we’re expected to keep track of. But director Varma and his co-writers, Gaurav Varma and Elvin Raja, have a playful attitude toward the surprise twists and layers of deception they’ve carefully engineered. They have pride of craft and sense of fun, a winning combination.
Film Review: 'Mickey Virus'
(India) A DAR Motion Pictures production in association with Trilogic Digital Media Limited and Awesome Films Pvt. Ltd.. Produced by Arun Rangachari, Vivek Rangachari. Executive producer, Meraj Shaikh.
Directed by Saurabh Varma. Screenplay, Saurabh Varma; story, Gaurav Varma, Saurabh Varma, Elvin Raja. Camera (color), Anshuman Mahaley; editor, Archit D. Rastogi; music, Hanif Shaikh; production designers, Suman Roy, Mahapatra; casting, Abhishek Banerjee.
Manish Paul, Elli Avram, Puja Gupta, Manish Choudhary, Varun Badola, Nitish Pandey. (Hindi dialogue).