November 1, 2019: The Day ‘Drive’ Released And Streaming Entertainment Died

Films are well, films, mostly; this was my driving force when I began to review films a good eight years ago. I didn’t revere them, I didn’t hype them, for me, films were just finished products making it to the market. They have a couple of weeks to run at the box office and then they are relegated to obscurity.

But then, there are some films that are cultural phenomenons, benchmarks, yardsticks and of course, something that inspires others, films that trade pundits await, something that other creators wait for to know how they fare, to know whether they too can take that step.

Very few filmmakers make such films – films that even the industry waits for. One of those creators is Karan Johar. Yesterday, his production house, Dharma, released Drive on Netflix. The rare film from such a big production house didn’t get a wide release but was released directly to Netflix. Beyond the SEO-driven, click-bait headlines and overhype, Karan Johar has basically released his first straight-to-video film.

Very few current entertainment journalists will know what a straight-to-video film is. Straight to video films are those which are never meant for a wide release. These films are different from those that broadcast on basic cable after a wide release. Straight-to-video films are, quite simply, made for the DVD/online market. Almost all of these are very economic projects with few or no known names in the star cast. Basically, the straight-to-video market is where film franchises go to die.

Because the Indian entertainment market is still light years behind Hollywood, straight-to-video is more or less dead. That doesn’t mean that this phenomenon didn’t ever exist in India. In the eighties and the nineties, with the boom of VCRs, several such films came into being. Remember that super hit song ‘Hawa Hawa?‘ That was a song from a straight-to-video film. Here’s a link:

Another famous straight-to-video film from those naughty nineties is Chalte Chalte. Not that Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukerji film, this was a  film that very few knew about. No links exist for this film, you would just have to believe my words. Like the one that had the original song, Laal Chunar Malmal Ki. You can watch that song here:

So, now that you know the DNA of straight-to-video films and maybe people of a particular age even remember watching these, let me be the first one to tell you that, Karan Johar’s Drive doesn’t even deserve a Time Video release. Time Video was a brand that released straight-to-video films.

The story is quarter-baked. The characters are nonsensical. There’s not a single scene, situation or even a dialogue that would stay with the audience. And that’s only until ten minutes after the interval, because, as a reviewer, Drive became the second film in my self-professed career as a film reviewer, that I turned it off. In theatrical terms, I walked out of the cinema hall.  The only other film that I have reserved that infamy is Bheja Fry 2.

Sushant Singh Rajput, as usual, is non-consequential. He is reduced to be a charmless, amateur actor who has lesser character than a blank piece of paper against a snowy backdrop. Jacqueline Fernandez is at her screeching worst. I think she has already bid her acting career goodbye and will now be seen only in boutique films.

I do not understand how the three people who are supposedly behind the film, Tarun Mansukhani, Hossein Amini and James Sallis justify any amount of money they charged for writing or directing Drive. This is the kind of film that actors and directors should disown after seeing the first cut. How does Tarun Mansukhani get to do this?

The only other film he has helmed is Dostana, which came out in 2008. In film parlance, that’s in his second past life and this is his seventh. He has spent his whole life being an AD on other films. His first film was a rom-com. If this wasn’t Tarun, do you think he’d ever get a chance to conjure up a Netflix credit under his belt?

This isn’t just about how Tarun has done it, its also about how what Tarun has done. A heist film isn’t about attaching a Go-Pro to the dashcam of a car and terming it as film-making. Does Tarun show the emotion and the chemistry between the people and the cars? No, instead he goes on to show Big Boy Toyz.

For a robber-with-car, the car is the only moving object that they will own and control, that’s an unbreakable bond between a man, or woman, and machine. Remember Street Hawk? That’s been shown amplified in other car-and-people films, like The Transporter, the Furious series, and even Expendables, to an extent. None of that finds its place in this trainwreck-meet-asteroid-attacks-the-planet kind of experience.

I mean that man no ill-will. But watching his take on a high speed/heist film is like watching paint dry, sitting on a chair with thorns, tied to the chair with magnets that’s stuck to the mobile phone in your pocket. I sincerely hope him my best wishes and a great career – outside the film industry.

The last slap on the face is making fun of the last and final wish. If Mansukhani didn’t have enough with taking a dump on an entire niche of films, he ridicules that hallowed aspect – the last wish. Where was Dharma’s political correctness when that scene was being shot?

This is the reality in a scenario where production houses pay scriptwriters ₹50,000 for the entire script, screenplay and dialogues and still want them to have written scripts for at least two other films in the same genre. This, after they know the countless men and women who are sitting around in the offices of production houses, pitching their life’s ideas, because Netflix is looking for a new concept.

All they end up doing is writing a script for a film that goes live on a revenue-sharing basis. When they know this happens, how could they submit their scripts to Dharma? How could they endure the entire process of shooting, editing and dubbing the film? Did they not realise even during the post-production that this could be the worst film to ever hit the screens? Yes, I am comparing this to Humshakals, this one is that bad.

I don’t even remember the names of the other three characters. Boman Irani and Pankaj Tripathi are national treasures. It’s a shame that we are seeing them in such a film.

The direction plods from aha moment to aha moment, which isn’t much. Tarun wanted to make this India’s answer to high speed, high profile heist films. This film isn’t even at the Tarzan – The Wonder Car level. I will watch this film when it is broadcast on cable someday. You can watch the film here:

My readers will notice that this article is much harsher than the others that I write. That’s because the film has touched a raw nerve, as it will, to anyone who has ever pitched an idea to a production house. How did this film get approved at the highest of the levels?

Netflix has, sadly, become like any another Indian company that doesn’t really seem to be doing a quality check and going by the name and the fame. Something that Walt Disney did, years back, and came up with animation films like Roadside Romeo.

As I write this article, I think of Karan Johar walking with a Halliburton suitcase stuffed with dollar bills, cackling all the way to the bank, waving at all the poor sods who are still waiting for their dream script to get a release – any release – even a straight-to-video release.

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