Babil Khan and Amrith Jayan in a still from the movie. (Courtesy: NetflixIndia)
Boys will be boys, boisterous, bristling and brazen especially when no one is watching, but the ones we meet in Friday Night Plan, a teen comedy written and directed by debutant Vatsal Neelakantan, are a tame bunch by the established standards of the genre. They aren't reminiscent of the sort of guys who pushed the boundaries of exuberance in American Pie or Superbad.
These Mumbai boys are straightlaced kids in quest of some harmless fun at a turning point of their lives. They certainly aren't looking to lose their virginity. All that they intend to do in the course of a few hours of hard, booze-soaked partying a week ahead of their prom night is find girlfriends to accompany them to the ball. The worst that they can do while they are at it is get as sloshed as possible without passing out.
Friday Night Plan, produced by Excel Entertainment for Netflix, revolves around two temperamentally dissimilar teenage brothers who bicker, banter, indulge in pillow fights and generally get in each other's ways in as many ways as they can.
The film is flighty, fluffy and feathery, as comedies of this kind usually are, but it is also agreeably diverting thanks in part to a screenplay that manages to conjure something out of literally nothing. That is not to suggest that there is anything magical in Friday Night Plan.
It is a bit like the boys it revolves around - staid and unexciting - notwithstanding the mild froth it whips up. It is a coming-of-age film that isn't wacky or wild enough to suck the audience into the whirligig of high school life or into the topsy-turvy inner worlds of on-the-cusp-of-college boys and girls determined to make the most of the leapfrog into adulthood.
Sid Menon (Babil Khan), 18, is a nerdy young man a week or so away from graduating from high school. His focus is squarely on college applications but he is no hurry. He is wary of going wrong. It is not a day too soon for him to learn to chill and throw caution to the wind, if only occasionally.
His brother, Adi Menon (Amrith Jayan), 16, is far more adventurous. He is forever up to mischief, a trait that Sid frowns upon. So, when Adi wants to go and watch Sid warm the bench during school football tournament final, the latter wants his ki brother off his back. His mother (Juhi Chawla in a special appearance) talks him out of his firm disinclination.
Mom leaves for Pune for a business meeting but not before she makes her older son promise that the brothers will stay out of trouble. But that is easier said than done.
No sooner is their mother on her way than the two siblings are ready to firm up plans to head to a party at the home of the school's most popular girl, Natasha "Nat" Sabharwal (Medha Rana), and her little sister, Nitya "Nits" Sabharwal (Aadhya Anand). On their way there, the duo hits a rough patch.
It is a week ahead of prom night. The boys and their mates, following the football match that throws up an unlikely star, decide to let their hair down, guzzle bucketloads of beer and play party games while utilising the evening looking around for a prom companion.
Friday Night Plan unpacks itself in four principal spaces - Sid and Adi's home; the school's football ground where Sid achieves a breakthrough that opens a door he did know existed; the streets of Mumbai and the venue of the party - before the brothers wind up in a police station.
It all pans out over a single night that throws Sid into slippery situations. Adi, unflustered, has a way of treating every kerfuffle with an air of nonchalance, which annoys Sid no end.
A war of pranks erupts between two groups of boys. It escalates rapidly and the two brothers find themselves in the crosshairs of a Mumbai policeman on duty, Sub-inspector Suhas Pingale (Ninad Kamat). As time runs out on them, they have a serious matter to resolve, home in on a girlfriend each, and make their way back home before their mother returns.
Amid the misadventures of the two callow boys, the film drops a few truth bombs as Sid and Adi alternate between blaming each other and sheepishly feeling fleeting fraternal fervour and even exchanging apologies. All this happens while the elder brother, now somewhat free of his inhibitions, loosens up with both Nat and Nits, the two sisters who, like the Menon boys, have nothing in common as far as their priorities in life go.
Friday Night Plan rests on a thin storyline that is built on the clash of the character contrasts that separate and define the four key individuals in the story. Nat is the gregarious one. Nits is an introvert, a bookworm who is at her best when she is lost in her thoughts.
Sid has to contend with a formidable rival in Kabir (Aditya Jain), the star footballer of the school, in his attempts to earn Nat's attention. As the night wears on, the pints he downs help Sid step out of his shell much to the delight of his kid brother.
Insubstantial as it might be as a coming-of-age drama, Friday Night Plan works in parts because the two male leads get into the swing of things without much ado. Babil Khan puts his best foot forward as the honest-to-goodness guy who is overly circumspect, a boy who prefers to keep to himself until a couple of incidents catapult him into the spotlight.
Amrith Jayan as the chirpy younger brother who revels in pushing his luck is no less impressive. In the role of the boys' mother, Juhi Chawla is effortlessly in step with the flow of the not-too-demanding film. Ninad Kamat as the angry cop lying in wait to read the brothers the riot act has his moments under the sun, er moon.
The others in the cast keep the flimsy but inoffensive romp moving along with their zestful performances. Both Medha Rana and Aadhya Anand do their very best in a film that is not so much about what the girls want as about two boys compelled to grow up in the matter of a few hours.
Friday Night Plan may not be the most happening cinematic party you will ever be invited to, but it is the sort of modest-scale, light-hearted entertainer that does not lose the spring in its dainty steps although it never quite turns into a full-fledged foxtrot.
Babil Khan, Amrith Jayan, Aadhya Anand, Juhi Chawla