Nautanki Saala! marks Ayushmann Khurana’s next big acting venture following the critical and commercial success of his debut film Vicky Donor (2012). It has been directed by Rohan Sippy and also stars Kunal Roy Kapur and Pooja Salvi in key roles, with Gaelyn Mendonca and Evelyn Sharma playing supporting roles. Based on the 2003 French comedy Après Vous (After You), the story revolves around a theatre actor-director Ram Parmar (or RP as he is commonly known as). He saves his friend Mandar (Kunal Roy Kapur) from committing suicide and tries to help him by giving him a reason to live. Hence, he attempts to reunite Mandar with his ex-girlfriend Nandini (Pooja Salvi), whom Mandar is madly in love with. However, little does RP know that he would end up falling for Nandini, despite him already being in a relationship and knowing full well that this could ruin his friendship with Mandar.
To some extent, Nautanki Saala! is a story which we have seen numerous times in Bollywood. It’s just that it has been remoulded in order to give the film a charismatic look and feel to it. However, Nautanki Saala! does have many brilliant moments that do not make it a dull watch. Rohan Sippy’s direction quality in this film is very good and he manages to pull you into the various situations that the key characters encounter with interest. Yet, having said this, Sippy could have reworked specific scenes in order to consolidate the look of the film, its narrative and therefore give it that extra spark. Hence, despite some problems with the script and direction, Nautanki Saala! ultimately works and you feel content with the fact that it is not a disaster of a film.
Ayushmann Khurana provides a solid and impressive performance as RP. One of the most talented actors in the Indian film industry today, Ayushmann is convincing, witty and pleasant to watch throughout the film. Post Vicky Donor, Ayushmann proves with Nautanki Saala! that he is not a one-film wonder and has lots to offer as an actor. Kunal Roy Kapur also delivers a great performance as RP’s suicidal friend Mandar and is one of the additional highlights of this film. Kapur manages to give his character the depth and tone it needs in order to be a hit with the audiences.
The film’s actresses don’t provide the same calibre of performance. Pooja Salvi, Evelyn Sharma and Gaelyn Mendonca could have given more texture to this film through their performances, but sadly they do not manage to amaze. Therefore, the real nautankis (dramatists) in this film are the two leading males, who prevent the film from crumbling. One of the additional highlights of Nautanki Saala! is its soundtrack, which has some catchy and flavoursome tunes that will appeal to all. These include songs like ‘Saadi Galli’ and ‘Tu Hi Tu’ (both sung by Ayushmann Khurana), as well as ‘Draamebaaz’ and ‘Mera Mann Kehne Laga.’
Overall, Nautanki Saala! is not a thrilling film, yet it does have many positive elements to it that make it a very enjoyable watch. Sippy has carved an average masala film that will be appreciated by many audience members and it is certainly a must-watch for anyone who is a fan of Ayushmann Khurana. Many will also agree that it could have been so much more; had alternative approaches been adopted in terms of scriptwriting and direction.