Freddy review: Gwalior’s moda Kartik Aaryan drills into new territory as the dikara Parsi dentist

Largely known for playing jovial characters, Aaryan shows an altogether different shade in the Shashanka Ghosh directorial.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

By Mayur Lookhar

“Hi, I’m Freddy Ginwala,” the Parsi dentist mumbles whilst sitting alone in Blue Café, a fictitious South Mumbai café. As he continues to rehearse, a pretty lady arrives who is stunned by this behaviour. It is a meet that’s been arranged via matrimony. Freddy’s nervous like hell, barely striking any eye contact. Instead, twice his eyes look upon her cleavage. Damn it! That one moment was enough to piss off the girl. This reviewer is twice guilty of such blunders. At least in one date, the cleavage was hard to ignore. Not that yours truly or Freddy are lecherous men. We simply pay the price for being introvert, often succumbing to our anxieties.

Freddy did more than one blunder. He makes it obvious to the girl that he’s rehearsed his conversation. “I like National Geographic [nice marketing integration],” Freddy doesn’t even add the ‘channel’ when the girl requests to be excused citing an urgent meeting. Poor Freddy is like the countless men who are pure at heart, but just don’t have the confidence to initiate any engaging conversation with a woman. It is not just women, but the reticent almost bland Freddy can’t even amuse his patients. He asks a little boy, “What is agarbatti’s [incense stick] mother called? The boy seems disinterested. Next moment, Freddy quips, “Mombatti” [candle]. There is no reaction from the boy. How this man went on to become a successful dentist is nothing short of a miracle. He’s good with his hands, but often tongue tied in social conversations.

Sometime later, Freddy gets a call from a woman who is interested in his profile. He happily reveals her that he’s been on the matrimonial portal for over three years. The excitable Mr. Ginwala lands up at Blue Café again but this time no one arrives. He sips his favourite mocktail, while the waiter mocks him for being a such a loser. As he exits, Freddy overhears a young bunch speaking the same words that he revealed to the girl on the phone.  Phew, the girl clearly played a nice prank on him. An embarrassed Freddy swallows his non-existent pride, choosing to walk away with his tail between his legs. Jeez, how can you not feel for this lonely guy!

You fear that the man will marry his work for the rest of his life.  Then comes a fellow Parsi woman Kainaz Irani [Alaya F]. He catches the woman smiling at him at a Parsi wedding. His aunt pushes him to show some balls and strike a conversation. It’s a move that ends up in a disaster as the lady refutes his gazing-at-him charge. Her possessive, abusive husband Rustom pops up next second threatening Freddy to stay away from his wife. This is the third straight embarrassing moment for poor Freddy. Phew, as a viewer you are frustrated with him. How can this mid-age portly, hunchback Parsi dentist with zero social skills be your protagonist? This reviewer is shouting in his head, telling Freddy to stop embarrassing yourself.  Chuck the material world, and find solace in the song, “Ishq kabhi kariyo na” [Never fall in love].  But how many lonely men listen to the mind?

The heart eventually drags you over and over again. Kainaz comes in Freddy’s life as a patient and soon the dentist can’t hide his feelings. A tragedy ensues but it’s the subsequent events that completely change the protagonists. It feels like an altogether new world, a new film taking over.

Though fairly predictable it’s the largely engaging screenplay, and the gripping acts that hook you to this thriller.  We’ve heard of Daruwala, but Ginwala is a relatively unheralded Parsi surname. Presumably, Gin isn’t the most favoured alcohol. Poor Freddy lives up to the Gin name, living an isolated life. Freddy might not be like your typical confident Parsi guy, who often make great businessmen. His introvert attitude though might throw some probable explanation on the community’s dwindling population. Writer Parveez Sheik and director Shashanka Ghosh are wise in choosing a Parsi guy to play their protagonist.

Gwalior [Madhya Pradesh] boy Kartik Aaryan has largely excelled as the jovial, mischievous chocolate boy. He’s jovial in real life too. Often one struggles to differentiate between the reel and the real Kartik. Freddy though is a career defining role. That this film comes after Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 [2002] is all the more commendable. Aaryan breaks the stereotype to deliver his finest act. The moda [boy] from Gwalior is simply brilliant as the dikara [beloved] Parsi dentist from Mumbai. He draws you with his mannerism, loneliness. His best friend is his mute tortoise Hardy. Though there is a paradigm shift in the story, Freddy doesn’t really metamorphose into any Freddie Krueger [popular demonic character in a Hollywood franchise]. Despite the strong reactions, you never lose that empathy for Freddy Ginwala.  Though a dangerous precedent, but that’s the impact of the character, and the cinema that Freddy represents.

Aaryan is fairly efficient in his Parsi-Gujarati with the writer and the director being smart in not burdening him with lingual pride. It’s Freddy’s aunty, nanny who successfully represent the Parsi culture.

We haven’t watched her debut film, but Alaya F had drawn praise for Jawaani Jaaneman [2020]. The 180 degrees change in character arc of Kainaz brings out an altogether different person. Alaya makes you love and hate Kainaz in equal breath. That is testimony to her stupendous performance, showcasing her range and mettle as a young actress. She has the talent of her illustrious grandfather [Kabir Bedi], and the gifted gummy smile like her mother [Pooja Bedi]. Freddy [2022] only further adds to her rising reputation.

Each artiste, especially all the Parsi characters do full justice to their roles. The drastic change in the plot might hit hard to the point of distancing some from the earlier delightful experience. Shiek’s screenplay is backed by fine dialogues by Aseem Arora. The one big worrying part though is the tactics that the key players employ. Not that we are deliberately hammering logic here, but some action, some incompetence [police] is questionable. A burial act triggers a sense of déjà vu’, but Freddy is certainly no Dr. Death.

The fine plot is backed by intense performances, neat production design, particularly capturing the Parsi milieu nicely. It’s turning point scene is a bright visual metaphor where a crestfallen Freddy drops to the ground crying like a baby, embarrassed to the point of burying himself in the floor. Alternatively, the image of the coiling Freddy can also be perceived as rebirth. The next frame on the other side has lust, debauchery written all over it.  Ayananka Bose’s visual storytelling speaks a tale of its own.

Director Ghosh is largely in control of his story, and succeeds in getting the best out of the talent at his disposal. The few tactics are questionable, but it doesn’t dilute the overall engaging experience. Dr. Freddy certainly has a moving story.

Freddy [2022] will stream on Disney + Hotstar from 2 December.


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