New Delhi: The timing of budding director Hemant Gaba's indie film Shuttlecock Boys could not have been better. Released right at the turn of one of modern society's landmark occasions - the Friendship Day - and during the ongoing London Olympics, it is a fruity little punch of camaraderie and hope combining the best of kinship and sports.
It's ironic that at a time when Olympics badminton players are charged with 'throwing' away matches, the game is a recurring theme in Gaba's film, shown in its splendour of competitive sportsmanship.
Gradually, the location for aspirational Indian films has shifted from the squalor of Mumbai to the bustle of New Delhi. A slew of films based in Delhi have either shown the city's stark indifference in its busy hovels or its rise as the playground of the rich. Shuttlecock Boys does none. The film straddles the city's areas of opportunities and blends the desolate struggles of its people.
Four friends Gaurav, Manav, Pankaj and Loveleen are remarkable in their ordinariness. They play badminton (not very well), rib each other, sell credit cards, cook for a living, flirt with women, kill time at a call centre and study to become a Chartered Accountant. In their petty scheme of things none aspire to anything more spectacular than buying a red Maruti Swift or marrying the girl they have been going out with.
All that changes when the first spark of ambition starts a slow fire of a dream - of starting a catering business. Simple enough? Not for the four who live a daily existence of curbing their small desires - like buying the girlfriend a purse she wants and not one he can afford. The ensuing struggle to establish a business while fighting red tape, lack of funds, personal setbacks and parental expectations makes the film a warm, nostalgia-driven ride back to the aimless days after graduation.
The acting of the lead protagonists, played by Aakar Kaushik, Manish Nawani, Alok Kumar and Vijay Prateek is stilted in places, especially where they choose to communicate through gestures rather than dialogue, but they make up with their disarming candour.
Their interpersonal relations are a treat to watch even if some implausible sequences like paying off an auto fare with a wrist watch look contrived. There is much to cheer for in this film - Gaba's vision of what friendship should be, the message of hope in the end and the unbroken spirit of young men who believe they can achieve anything only if they could get up on the first bell of the alarm clock.
This will be releasing with the big competitor - Jism 2. But Shuttlecock Boys deserves a watch for the effort that went into making it. It's not a perfect film, but you will have the biggest smile on your face watching it.