It's unconventional. Period.
If you are the kind that likes happily-ever-after movies, Mixed Doubles -- directed by Rajat Kapoor -- may not entertain you.
Everything in the film is simple, something you and I can relate to. Even the colour of the walls at Sunil (Ranvir Shorey) and Malti's (Konkona Sen Sharma) home is very ordinary. The interiors, the costumes, everything is very real, and not filmi at all.
But while there is comfort, after 10 years of togetherness, the spark in their married life is gone.
Sunil and Malti love each other and would not dream of cheating. A marriage of choice, it is clear that the early years were happy. But now, Sunil needs something to jazz up their life, something that can bring the intimacy back. He is not even up to making love to her. He is bored with the routine.
Sunil's non-resident Indian friend suggests wife swapping, and his mind starts working double time. Just the anticipation makes him very excited and he makes love to Malti after 40 days. Don't expect steamy scenes though, it's not a Mahesh Bhatt film.
Malti is pleased with the change in his mood. Since he does not want to cheat on her and wants her to agree to do it, he cajoles, pleads and yells at her.
There is a wonderful sequence when Malti gets angry with him and they don't talk. The next morning, one washed piece of clothing up for drying falls off. Sunil climbs down from the fifth floor balcony to the perch below it to get it back.
"Ab to gussa nahi ho na?" he asks. Isn't that cute?
Predictably, she falls for it (such suckers we women are) and they make up; but not for along.
Sunil goes on with his plan to meet interested couples. When he finally finds one, he tries to get Malti to agree to wife swapping. She walks out.
Finally he tricks her (such a louse!) and then she agrees.
I am not going to get into moral issues here: Not everybody believes in them. But the problem is that Malti does; and it's a little indigestible that she agrees to his plans and -- even more funnily -- confides to her colleague!
The film is all about the relationship equivalent of what economists call the law of diminishing returns. And about how Sunil and Malti go about trying to spice up their life.
There is a certain playfulness and innocence in the movie. But the second half does not do justice to the anticipation that the director builds up in the first half. The humour is well placed, though sometimes it goes overboard. The dialogues -- by Anurag Kashyap and Rajat Kapoor -- could have been catchier.
Even in a miniscule role, Koel Puri is a treat to watch. Naseeruddin Shah (yes, he is there too) is wasted and so is Malti and Sunil's child, whose character is not well developed. There is no emotional bonding with the child. Anyway the film is not about him, why put him there in the first place?
Vinod (Rajat Kapoor) repeats his nice man image even when he is actually trying to get another man's wife to bed. Does he succeed? Well you will have to watch the movie for that.
And it's definitely worth watching once.