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'The Archies' Review: Teenage Rebellion Is Punctuated With Song & Heart

'The Archies' created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti is streaming on Netflix.

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'The Archies' Review: Teenage Rebellion Is Punctuated With Song & Heart

Every time Dilton Doiley (Yuvraj Menda) says, “Thank you!” with that specific, lovely lilt to his voice and Betty Cooper (Khushi Kapoor) and Veronica Lodge (Suhana Khan) echoed it, I was left with a smile on my face. Almost as if I was transported back to a time when I was sitting with friends on a picnic blanket, rarely a worry in the world. For the most part, that is what The Archies feels like – a hug from an old friend; comforting and nostalgic.

'The Archies' created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti is streaming on Netflix.

A still from The Archies.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

And nostalgia is also central to the film – the gang must come together to protect Green Park from an expansion plan courtesy Hiram Lodge. In this universe, a Britisher Sir John Riverdale stumbled upon a paradise that he then leased and the plot isn’t anything novel – the town has an attachment to the park, their kids even plant trees when they turn 5. 

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While the majority of the film deals with the Archies staple; Archie Andrews’ (Agastya Nanda) swinging affections between Betty and Veronica, creators Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti infuse the story with specificities of teenage life and well-thought-out details about the Anglo-Indian community. 

Archie is the film’s central character but not the protagonist – it’s an interesting take on the character. Having already sorted out a possibility of a life in London, Archie is more detached from the gang’s fight than the others.

It feels more like the conversations are centered around the fact that he is so oblivious to things that don't personally affect him; a privilege perhaps afforded to him from his own confidence in his charm and handsome features. He is a man of action but not of consequence.

'The Archies' created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti is streaming on Netflix.

A still from The Archies.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

He believes politics doesn’t concern him, which leads to a spirited musical number from his friends explaining to him that the ‘personal is political’.

Admittedly, it isn’t a very nuanced or detailed conversation but these are teenagers who are growing up comparatively privileged and that comes through in their activism as well. 

The choice of form for this show, in slight contrast to the other well–known Archies spin-off Riverdale, is a musical. Considering that Archie is a musician, he often breaks into song – from belting out a peppy number as a party to crooning a profession of affection. While almost all the songs aren’t harsh on the years, Va Va Voom is an earworm but Dhishoom Dhishoom (sung by Dot. and Kelly Dlima, composed by Shankar Ehsaan Loy) was my personal instant favourite.

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However, the novelty of the decision to infuse poetry in Betty’s ‘Dear Diary’ moments wears off quick. Khushi Kapoor is arresting, effective, and believable as the kind-hearted but confident Betty.

She often matches steps with Suhana Khan, who dances and skates with an almost elegant comfort. Some of their dialogues come across stiff but that is also partly because of the way they're written. Some feel like actual human dialogue while others feel gimmicky - like they're structured to get a reaction instead of forwarding the story.

'The Archies' created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti is streaming on Netflix.

A still from The Archies.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

As the main man Andrews, Nanda chooses to play the character with a more bashful demeanour than what we expect from the character. He is self-confident in his career aspirations but feels unsure about his place in the world; Nanda captures this duality well. And yet there is Archie’s folly Reggie (played with impressive suave by Vedang Raina). The Archies explores a kinder and more perceptive side to the canonically brash Reggie. 

The actors are on the cusp of becoming seasoned actors but that will require more work.

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One of my favourites however is Dot. as the ambitious and unapologetic Ethel. It is the gang’s world and in this world, they come face to face with conversations like corporate greed, sexuality, ambition and family, the need for trust and loyalty, and even the need for introspection. 

Delving into corporate greed and the way minority communities too deserve to exist in a land they've built a connection to, feel timely in today’s times but like most of the other themes, a lot of the exploration feels cursory and superficial.

Riverdale feels like an island, detached from the real world. If it wasn’t for the stellar production design, this would’ve left like more of a con; the beauty is enough to disarm. I had complained, in my review for Farrey, that the characters don’t get explored enough in their interactions with each other. That is not a complaint I have here. 

'The Archies' created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti is streaming on Netflix.

A still from The Archies.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Every character, no matter how minor to the plot, gets to have a connection with another. Even something as simple as Ethel returning to her place of work with an apology speaks volumes about the characters in the scene. It is this attention to detail that makes The Archies relatable even though it is a world that most of us can’t identify with.

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At the end of the day, The Archies has its heart in the right place but there is a soul that is missing. The angle of children facing the loss of trees that they’ve essentially grown up is an emotional one but except for a few scenes, that effect doesn’t translate because the fabric of ‘paradise’ doesn’t rip. And how wrong can things actually go in paradise? 

Even as Reggie's father (Luke Kenny) brings up the need to protect press freedom, he eventually has to concede his pride because we live in a world driven by corporates. It makes you wonder.

'The Archies' created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti is streaming on Netflix.

A still from The Archies.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

As adults give in to the pressures of the world they live in (and are often forced to), their kids take up the mantle of their forgone pride and ambition.

How empathetic can we feel about characters who rarely rise above the archetypes we've already seen them as in the comics and watched over the years? The Archies tries to side step this by changing some details here and smoothening out some creases there.

The Archies is a simple story made for a simple watch. And while that makes the runtime feel rather long, sometimes simple is just enough. 

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Topics:  Khushi Kapoor   Suhana Khan   The Archies 

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