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‘Madgaon Express’ Review: Kunal Kemmu Brings Buddy Comedies Back

'Madgaon Express' stars Divyenndu, Pratik Gandhi, Avinash Tiwary, and Nora Fatehi.

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It is so good to laugh again. It has been a while since Bollywood delivered the kind of buddy comedy we deserve and it is almost fate that Kunal Kemmu would bring it back to the screens with Madgaon Express. Kemmu understands slapstick comedy but he also understands the fundamentals of setting up a joke – when a character responds to "sunn raha hai na tu?" with "ro raha hu mai," the joke catches you off guard, in the best way possible. 

'Madgaon Express' stars Divyenndu, Pratik Gandhi, Avinash Tiwary, and Nora Fatehi.

Pratik Gandhi, Divyenndu, and Avinash Tiwary in a still from Madgaon Express. 

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Madgaon Express would fit right in with the Bollywood comedies of the late 2000s. The gang could easily be Gopal, Lucky, Madhav, and Laxman instead of Dodo (Divyenndu), Pinku (Pratik Gandhi), and Ayush (Avinash Tiwary). Maybe it's been too long since we've seen one comic trope follow another so seamlessly, with characters that feel relatable to a version of us that only our closest friends see. 

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But the most relatable thing about the film is that the three friends go from school kids to job-having adults but don’t make it to Goa. Ayush and Pratik make it to New York and Cape Town before they make it to Goa. Dodo (or Dhanush) is the least successful of the bunch but creates a social media persona that suggests otherwise – he Photoshops the lifestyle he wants. Anurag Kashyap’s cameo is one of the funniest parts of that montage. 

'Madgaon Express' stars Divyenndu, Pratik Gandhi, Avinash Tiwary, and Nora Fatehi.

Pratik Gandhi, Divyenndu, and Avinash Tiwary in a still from Madgaon Express. 

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Madgaon Express isn’t relying on being believable – it’s instead choosing to be so zany that you don’t care. Why else would Tasha (Nora Fatehi literally be flung into a table in shock? Why else would Pratik’s coke-addled alter ego essentially be a superhero just seconds away from saying, “Darta kyu hai? Tera bhai hai na?” 

The Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara hangover in a Dil Chahta Hai jacket results in a mix of nostalgia and hilarity. 

The performances leave little to fault – Divyenndu is pitch perfect as the ‘loser’ of the bunch but also the one who is the least pretentious. He doesn’t get a redemption arc because people don’t change over the span of 3 days and yet, you see the layers of earnesty behind the character’s hare-brained schemes.

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Pratik Gandhi is having a blast with Pratik – the physical slapstick comedy is perfected down to the details. The gravitas from Scam 1992 has been replaced with both an unassertiveness and a confidence that looks comic. Avinash Tiwary flips the idea of the ‘hunk’ in Bollywood by playing Ayush with a charm that makes him even more attractive. 

'Madgaon Express' stars Divyenndu, Pratik Gandhi, Avinash Tiwary, and Nora Fatehi.

Pratik Gandhi, Divyenndu, and Avinash Tiwary in a still from Madgaon Express. 

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

And god, have I missed the typical filmy sequences where a character falls in love in a slo-mo vanity shot cutting to song and dance. The music in Madgaon Express is as silly as the film is (and equally as enjoyable). I love a good rhyme – salt-pepper with Queen cover with full-time lover is as good as it gets. 

The way the film uses background score as a tool is also genius - from the 'sad' music every time someone goes on an emotional rant to the way it abruptly cuts off when someone calls them out on their bull-. I thought it would get old but it doesn't.

'Madgaon Express' stars Divyenndu, Pratik Gandhi, Avinash Tiwary, and Nora Fatehi.

Nora Fatehi in a still from Madgaon Express. 

The trio run into numerous ‘characters’ on their journey including the effervescent Tasha. While she doesn’t get as much of a fleshed out character as the men, she does enough with what she is given. It’s no surprise that her screen presence as a performer does wonders but even beyond that her sheer disbelief at the situation she has been dragged into is hilarious.

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The casting team left no stone unturned with Madgaon Express – nobody would have played the terrifying (and incredibly stylish) Kanchan Komdi like Chhaya Kadam and nobody else could’ve brought Don Mendoza alive like Upendra Limaye. That being said, Chhaya Kadam does feel woefully underutilised for the most part. 

'Madgaon Express' stars Divyenndu, Pratik Gandhi, Avinash Tiwary, and Nora Fatehi.

Chhaya Kadam in a still from Madgaon Express. 

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

It takes a special skill to not come across as a total buffoon after face-planting on screen. They’re both examples of how characters can become memorable purely through their idiosyncrasies despite a short screen time. There are times when the film goes for outdated humour – maybe it’s time we retire crossdressing for comic effect. That being said, the makers and the actors avoid leaning into harmful exaggeration (Humshakals will haunt me for as long as I am alive) or leaning on harmful stereotypes to choose the easy way out.

I wonder, however, why the members of the Komdi gang aren’t trained to use the weapons they clearly have at their disposal. 

'Madgaon Express' stars Divyenndu, Pratik Gandhi, Avinash Tiwary, and Nora Fatehi.

A still from Madgaon Express.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Some of the gags go on for longer than they need to – the comedy in the moment starts to pale before the scene ends. Some jokes don’t land but enough do to avoid any glaringly dull moments. Then there are the moments where the film gets lost in its own eccentric world – as the schemes get whackier, it becomes harder to keep a hold of them. 

Madgaon Express is a rollercoaster of fun that is just cheeky enough to stand out from the buddy comedy genre. And here’s hoping the Kunal Kemmu cameo character actually makes it home. I’m worried about him.

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Topics:  Kunal Kemmu   Nora Fatehi   Pratik Gandhi 

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