Monday 8 April 2024

Travelling light: "Crew"

With their male counterparts being conscripted left and right to play soldiers, statesmen and other heroes of the state amid the newly agitated battle over Indian national identity, what to do with the strong women of Bollywood? Rajesh Krishnan's current hit Crew has the fun idea of casting three eminent examples of the form - Tabu, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Kriti Sanon - as air hostesses stranded in a Hustlers/Ocean's-like tight spot after their employers declare bankruptcy and their plan to smuggle gold ingots through customs goes awry. The pleasure here lies in being presented with a film so conspicuously light, that means only to provide genial, brain-in-something-like-neutral diversion for a couple of hours. The script, by Nidhi Mehra and Mehul Suri, contains no excess thematic baggage whatsoever; Crew makes even the blithe escapism of HBO's recent The Flight Attendant seem like a knottily plotted doorstopper by a multiple Pulitzer-winning author. There's a smattering of decent gags from the off, however - working the girls' safety demonstration into a song, having a nauseous Sanon reach for a sick bag and know exactly where to find one - and the sly reveal that, in the fragile gig economy the movie describes, everyone's having to be on the make and take, from Sanon's password-harvesting brother to a hotel manager who accepts bribes while assigning his maids their duties. (Here is where Crew comes closest to passing some form of social comment, but you'll have to look beyond an abundance of product placement to spot it.) Everything is held together by three leads who give off notably different energies - Tabu sensible, Sanon self-improving, Kapoor Khan endearingly cartoonish - yet gel quickly and work well together on a scene-by-scene basis; I won't make towering claims for Crew, but it does go to illustrate how a robust star system can flesh out and bulk up flyweight material so it resembles an acceptable night at the flicks. Beyond that, it remains naggingly cosmetic in its feminism, and barely one inch thick from start to finish; but it also earns goodwill for being a Hindi release of 2024 that doesn't feel like a citizenship test; it looks swell, the wardrobe department in particular having the most fun this side of Barbie; and it moves at a fair clip to one of the livelier Hindi soundtracks of recent times. Niche observation, I know, but the song "Kiddan Zaalima" has the strongest 80s synth drum fills since Stephen Duffy's Dr. Calculus side project. Oh, and one shot of Sanon devouring one of those Lindt Lindor truffles was just about the most delicious sight I've seen projected this week. I'm not made of stone, you know.

Crew is now playing in selected cinemas.

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