Cast: Kartik Aaryan, Alaya F
Director: Shashanka Ghosh
Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)
A bland, unimaginative riff on the much-imitated Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde construct, Freddy, directed by Shashanka Ghosh, homes in on a shy and phlegmatic dental surgeon who shares his home in Mumbai with a pet turtle named Hardy. The docile creature goes about its life quietly and unobtrusively. But when it ends up in a soup, it mirrors the fate of both the overheated but undercooked film and its seriously conflicted protagonist.
With the exception of one or two sharp turns and a big twist that jolts the taciturn doctor out of his stupor about a third of the way into the film, Freddy, streaming on Disney+Hotstar and produced by Balaji Telefilms, NH Studioz and Northern Lights Films, delivers no major punches or unsettling reveals. What it does offer are a few dark dashes that turn a hare into a hound of sorts.
Freddy is a dense and murky broth that is awfully low on meat. Worse still, it is served cold. The psychological thriller tries exceedingly hard to cash in on the potential of a twisted plot, which hinges on a hit and run and on a crush that the friendless hero develops on a pretty patient whose own life is weighed down by intractable domestic strife.
Freddy loves to paint miniature planes, a hobby that suggests he isn't a man in a hurry to grow up. "You are not a bachcha anymore," an aunt reprimands him. The matronly admonition falls on deaf years. She eggs him on to find a girlfriend and end his single status. The guy tries but he is so hopelessly awkward with women that he invariably finds ways to say - and do - the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Clearly, it couldn't be easy being a man as socially awkward as Dr Freddy Ginwala (Kartik Aryan). He is lonely and not the sort of guy who can have anybody eat off the palm of his hand. In his constant and futile endeavour to find a soulmate on a matrimonial website, he meets a string of potential life partners- the film opens with one such messy date - and makes a complete hash of every encounter that he rehearses for before his mirror.
If Freddy still manages to stay afloat, it is only because he has a thriving dental practice. That apart, none of the hook-ups that he attempts in vain throws him off balance like his brush with Kainaaz Irani (Alaya F) - he starts off on the wrong foot with her but then begins to forge a bond that promises to go in the right direction - does. Freddy is completely, and complicatedly, smitten with Kainaaz.
He grows increasingly fond of her when the young lady walks into his clinic for a wisdom tooth extraction. The introvert seizes the opportunity to cosy up to her despite the knowledge that she is a married woman. Kainaaz, who is at the receiving end of the tantrums of her abusive restaurateur-husband Rustam, reciprocates Feckless Freddy's ardour.
Freddy is not exactly suffering from multiple personality disorder, but the memory of a childhood tragedy continues to haunt him and render him incapable of establishing genuine amorous connections with members of the opposite sex.
When he eventually does manage to do that with Kainaaz, tremulously and tentatively as is his wont, the liaison culminates in more subterfuge and ignominy than he can handle. That triggers a chain of events that brings to the fore dormant and dangerous facet of Freddy's personality.
Freddy has blood on his hands for what he believes is a cause worth a shot. But once the deed is done, he has nothing to show by way of reward for an act of uncharacteristic 'courage'. The treachery drives him crazy. He sets in motion a complicated revenge plan, which, too, does not follow the script he has in mind.
Notwithstanding all the darkness that engulfs Freddy and the impulsive actions that it precipitates, the story never quite springs to life and breaks into a canter. The prime reason for that are the inconsistencies that the pivotal character is riddled with.
While the self-effacing, harmless-until-he-is-provoked man seems to adhere to a very strict code of conduct - all he wants when he has been cruelly short-changed is a simple apology from the person responsible for his slide into despair - he can also summon the nerve for the most shocking transgressions.
While lead actor Kartik Aaryan strives to make the character work - he gets the body language, if not the shifty gaze, of a nerdy, unhappy loner trapped in a thick and hard shell pretty much like his pet turtle - his game efforts do not bear much fruit because neither the weaknesses of the hero nor the seductive charms of the femme fatale he falls for - Alaya, too, has to stretch herself to snapping point to get into the skin of the temptress - are psychologically convincing or dramatically effective.
Their moves are way too arbitrary and warped to be convincing as reflections of ingrained self-destructive pathologies. Freddy does not generate any tension or produce any mystery and suspense as a cat-and-mouse game unfolds following a brutal hit-and-run case that gets further and further away from being solved as its repercussions become more and more predictable.
Parveez Sheikh's story and screenplay appears to have far more substance on paper - this film could have been a decent examination of loneliness and its consequences - than the director is able to flesh out on the screen. Freddy flounders around rather aimlessly and has to make to do with very, very slim returns.
The dentist is playing with our dimaag, says one character when matters come to a head. That is a bit of an overstatement. Dimaag is the last thing that has any chance of showing up in a film that banks upon hackneyed means to piece together a revenge tale that wants to be something removed from the run of the mill but is unable to shake off the indolence that holds it back. Freddy is a steady downhill ride.