A man voluntarily decides to not get out of his house for nine months. His watchman gets him money from the ATM, he cooks for himself, basically wants to cut himself off from any kind of human interaction but finds himself stuck in a mess when multiple people suddenly show up at his place. That’s essentially the premise of this Ali Fazal-Shriya Pilgaonkar starrer, and it’s actually ripe with potential - there’s a lot of scope for some great comedy. But you need some great writing for that, and does House Arrest score on that account? Not really.
What’s It About?
The film starts with Karan (Ali Fazal), receiving a package from his neighbour Pinky (Barkha Singh). Pinky is your quintessential irritating spoilt brat, who talks like Poo from K3G. She’s the daughter of a local don and has neatly packed a man into the box and dumped it on Karan.
Initially, I thought the film would be about Karan trying to dispose off the body, which it is to an extent, but the film seems confused about the genre-specific audience it’s trying to cater to. Shashanka Ghosh, who has co-directed the film along with Samit Basu, has given us films like Khoobsurat and Quick Gun Murugan before this. Those films were quirky and sweet in equal measure, because they were elevated by some good performances and clever writing.
Large parts of House Arrest are conversations between Karan and Saira (Shriya Pilgaonkar), a journalist who finds Karan’s decision to isolate himself ideal as a story for her. These would work if the writing kept you hooked, because these are just regular conversations, but it just seems artificial. The funny bits of the film are when the man stuck in the package, tries in different ways to escape. There’s nothing really novel about it but it made me laugh, which didn’t happen for me otherwise while watching the film.
What Works and What Doesn’t
Ali Fazal is a competent actor, but here he doesn’t have much to do other than just looking confused, dazed and plain annoyed. Shriya as Saira tries to make whatever she can of her character, but the film is unable to achieve the kind of depth it should. Maybe the film isn’t supposed to give us major insights into the characters. But then is it about a bunch of oddballs stuck inside an apartment? Nope.
Throughout the film, I kept wondering about why Karan wanted to be stuck inside his apartment.
But when I reached the big reveal at the end, it made sense, but only partially. The emotionally hefty scene would have moved me only if I’d been invested in Karan’s character - something the film could have achieved since Karan is in practically every frame. There’s also Jim Sarbh as his best friend, who keeps making wisecracks, and it’s again a waste of a good actor, because the film could have very well done without him.
Yay or Nay?
House Arrest is not a terrible film. It’s just mundane which is why it feels longer than its one hour forty-five minutes run time. The end seems especially hurried, and Karan’s annoying neighbor seems to get away quite easily in spite of placing a package with an alive human in his house.
Samit Basu, who has also written the film, could have given us really quirky characters that came alive for a film of this kind. Not every film needs to be supported by logic or accuracy of time. But in its absence, what it really needs is clever, funny writing. Many scenes, like the one where Ali fazal is trying to hide the package, were ripe with potential for some great comedy but instead, they just turned out to be quite flat.
This is also a wake up call for Netflix since, just a little over a week ago, they gave us the torture that was the Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer ‘Drive’.
Their original series like Bard of Blood and the second season of Sacred Games both had a lukewarm response. So it’s clear that they really need to up their game.
As for House Arrest, it’s neither charming, nor awful - just somewhere in the middle. If you have time to kill, it wouldn’t harm you to check it out.