Netflix’s Upstarts Is for Those With the Proverbial Startup Dream
Upstarts begins with a scene where two friends are trying to help their third friend elope with a girl. It is full of humour but establishes the fact that their bond is thick, and they truly care for each other.
But life and movies can’t be complete without conflicts, and here it appears in the form of having to follow your ambition versus sticking to your ethics. Kapil (Priyanshu Painyuli), Yash (Chandrachoor Rai) and Vinay (Shadab Kamal), are flatmates who harbour the dream of starting their own company. Living in the IT hub of Bangalore, the trio wants to create an app that can deliver medicines to people who don’t have access to them. ‘Medicines ka Uber’, as Kapil describes the company, is what they aim to build.
The film shows them going from pillar to post trying to build awareness for their startup and simultaneously collect funding. They hit jackpot when a young wealthy investor agrees to pump in a massive amount of money.
The trailer of the film didn’t seem very impressive to me. The film luckily is a few notches above. The film captures the journey to the top, raising the question of morality and ethics in a capitalist world. As the company grows, Kapil is often left with the Hobson’s choice -take it or leave it. Director Udai Singh Pawar directs with a light-hand, and sometimes the long spiel on startups that the characters deliver made my attention wander.
But the characters keep you invested, in a narrative that is largely predictable. They’ve chosen actors who are still relatively unknown, which benefits the film that is about grown ups who are still finding themselves.
Priyanshu Painyuli is spot-on as Kapil, someone who can find entrepreneurial opportunities with ease. He flirts with ambition and wants to rise to the top, sliding his ideals aside sometimes, but he’s a good guy and Priyanshu brings that. Even small things like his gait that changes from an amateur to the CEO of a company.
Even Chandrachoor Rai as Yash is the perfect foil to Kapil. He’s that volatile friend, most friend groups have. A scene where his employers who are actually his juniors, are yelling at him is heart-breaking, as you see a man struggle with his addiction. Shadab Kamal as Vinay, is the ‘zen’ guy- the calm one, and is endearing as that.
What I found missing was why these guys wanted to create a startup in the first place? Why is there such a massive drive to create a business? The film also presents a certain kind of idealism and I found myself often defending the choices that the characters made, that we would probably call ‘capitalistic’. It’s a reflection of us really, as we climb the ladder.
There is also a certain level of artifice in the scenes, particularly when pertaining to business discussions. Large issues are glossed over, with utmost ease and you also have a Japanese investor favouring idealism over capitalism! It’s not like The Social Network that chronicled how Facebook emerged. It was dark, but really took a deep dive into showing the audience what it takes to become a giant.
But Upstarts stays afloat because the bonding between the three guys is solid. When Yash is down in the dumps, Vinay turns to him and says, “Oh Karan Johar ki picture, come have a beer.” Their friendship is real, their fights are real. A character in the film tells Kapil, “Tumne sewa bhi ki aur mewa bhi mil gaya”(You did good, and reaped the benefits as well). We all want that, don’t we? So if you’re in the mood for some optimism, give Upstarts a shot.
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