Movie Review: The Great Indian Butterfly

The Great Indian Butterfly is a typical arthouse film in Indian English which is far removed from the standard Bollywood fare. Though it doesn't have any of the usual exotic dance, drama or action, yet the evocatively titled film possibly has more relevance than most of the other films today. The Great Indian Butterfly tracks the turbulent married relationship of a young, upwardly mobile couple as they battle the usual problems most urban couples would identify with. The film is well-paced, the acting is realistic and the debutant director Sarthak Dasgupta keeps the screenplay flowing briskly, with the story jumping back and forth smoothly.

Sandhya Mridul and Aamir Bashir are a DINK couple who work in corporate jobs, own a fancy car and an apartment but have lots of stress. To take a break and resolve their problems, they decide to take a vacation. Except that Aamir messes up again and they miss their flight, which immediately leads to scrap. Thus, in this foul mood, they end up driving and bickering to Goa. During the journey, we learn of Aamir's quest for the great Indian butterfly, mentioned in the Mahabharata and the Puranas, which is supposed to bring "love, peace, luck and happiness" to whoever sees it. It is supposed to float in the "Cordiguez" valley and the couple decides to look for the butterfly, in an elusive search for their own inner peace. Ah, metaphors. Unfortunately, the director stresses the metaphor once too often in the form of Barry John, who keeps popping up in the film at regular intervals, delivering expert diatribes on the great Indian butterfly. Extremely irritating.

Then, there is Koel Purie, Aamir Bashir's former flame, with whom he still has some kind of relationship. As the couple reach Goa and begin their holiday, their life in Mumbai keeps intervening. Sandhya has troubles at work, while Aamir seems to be disturbed by something even as their aborted child returns to haunt them. In the midst of all this, they try and find their lost intimacy, but the atmosphere is badly strained. A misunderstanding leads to Sandhya walking out, while a distraught Aamir sets off alone to find the elusive butterfly.

The Great Indian Butterfly doesn't have much of a story to tell and tends to get clever and intellectual in parts. However, what keeps the film going is a sharp screenplay and the chemistry between the lead actors. Sandhya Mridul is kickass as the modern Indian woman, firm and sexy to boot and makes no bones about displaying her bare back in a scene. Aamir Bashir puts in a nuanced performance as a metrosexual husband, the mamma's boy trying to be brave. Koel looks sultry and bohemian and except for the Barry John bits which tend to get ponderous and philosophical, the film makes for an easy viewing. The one big problem with The Great Indian Butterfly is, however, the entirely English dialogue, which seemed a bit artificial to my Indian ears. However, it is worth a watch because it's worth a watch, especially if you're a Sandhya Mridul fan.


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