Some films upset you to an extent that as the credits roll, all you manage to ask is… why? What was the purpose of the film? What did it intend to preach? Did it wish to shed light on a social evil? Was ‘box office and fame’ purely the motivation of the film? And in most cases, you’ll even find your answer. Not in the case of Ram Kamal Mukherjee & Abhra Chakraborty’s Cakewalk, however.
Branded as Esha Deol Takhtani’s ‘comeback film’, Cakewalk exists in a vacuum of spotless chef uniforms, aesthetic kitchens, overly inquisitive call-centre employees and people who enunciate grammatically incorrect dialogue with the confidence of someone enunciating grammatically correct dialogue.
There are at least two instances in the 23-minute short film, where the screenwriters botch up the grammar of both Hindi and English dialogues. In the first scene, a Bengali actor (Anindita Bose) posing as a ‘Punjabi’ in the film, fumbles the line “woh chahate hain ki main unke purane yaadon *ki* hissa banoon“. This may seem like a small lapse, but underlines a much larger concern. Did no one see the film (and think of correcting these blotches while dubbing) before releasing it?
A 30-something ‘head of bakery’ in a 5-star hotel, Esha Deol Takhtani plays the role of Shilpa Sen. We’re gradually fed information about her outstanding credit card bills, her (near) victory on Masterchef, how the juniors are envious of her, and her failed marriage (in the laziest manner possible of a voice-over). It’s easy to see why the Dhoom actor would like this character of an “independent, real woman in the 21st century” stifled by society and patriarchal conditioning. It wouldn’t be stretching it too far to say Esha Deol Takhtani probably saw this film as her own English Vinglish. Now only if Cakewalk had the insight and warmth of Gauri Shinde’s directorial debut.
Cakewalk borrows the worst bits of contemporary Bengali cinema, where words are wasted in lieu of empty posturing. A character (Tarun Malhotra) is shown spouting TS Eliot as he bemoans the changing skyline of the city of Kolkata. Similar clunky dialogues are written to incorporate the film’s title into one of the lines, as the violins swell in the background in the most soap opera-like fashion. “Iss rishte mein sirf tum ho, hum kyun nahi?” yells Esha, and the violins grates painfully in the background. That’s the sound that captures the audience’s embarrassment of watching someone with the resources of Esha Deol Takhtani in a film like this.
However, it wouldn’t fair to blame the actors for the sheer pointlessness of Cakewalk. Directors Ram Kamal Mukherjee & Abhra Chakraborty deserve this albatross around their necks. A film about fragile urban marriages needed a sharper point-of-view, a bunch of actors who cared for the material more, coupled with less-pretentious direction. In an age where ‘nepotism’ keeps getting gutted on social media, Esha Deol Takhtani should have been more careful in choosing a film. A successful acting career is hardly a cakewalk!
Cakewalk is available for streaming on Voot for free.