Cast: Ranvir Shorey, Neha Dhupia, Vidushi Mehra
Director: Munish Bhardwaj
In these bizarre and beastly times, when we are all feeling a tad demonetised ourselves, the deep longing for and connect I felt with the wads of old Rs 500 notes that make a brief appearance in a bag in Moh Maya Money is indescribable. Not since Bubble Gum (2011’s most deserving and yet under-rated film) have I felt so deeply nostalgic. If they — the old, beauteous Rs 500 notes — had stayed on the screen a second longer, I would have been inconsolable. Thankfully, while Shriman Modiji may think that he’s done choo-mantar to all kala-dhan and kali-kartoot in our desh, fact is that we still have our property dealers with all their unscrupulousness intact.
Aman Mehra (Ranvir Shorey) is one such Delhi property agent who turns a massive, fairly straight-forward property deal that walks into his office into a buffet of under-the-table deals by creating greedy stakeholders. Black money and joy are promised and spread around because Aman doesn’t own the company. He’s just a middle-class mulazim who will not let go of a chance to make an extra chavanni, irrespective of the risk. His wife Divya (Neha Dhupia), a producer with a news channel, is risk-averse and slightly disgusted by his ways. She can’t stand it when he goes on and on about how much he hates his middle-class life, but chooses to mostly ignore him.
Aman wants a bungalow with a modular kitchen, three bathrooms and two tenants on two floors who’ll pay hefty monthly rentals. Hence the deals within a deal. But all this was before Divya got a scary phone call at work, the police informing her about her husband being in a fatal accident. She identifies the body and then, while mourning him at home, deals with creepy men and their chilling threats. When she returns to the police thana to collect the death certificate, she watches a pregnant woman (Vidushi Mehra) scream and cry about the police doing nothing to find her husband. He disappeared on the day Aman Mehra’s car had an accident and caught fire.
The film opens with the accident scene and then winds back 45 days before the accident. Somewhere in those days we figure that Divya has a secret life. Debutant writer-director Munish Bhardwaj’s Moh Maya Money is a moral tale with a sharp sting. Its engaging, intelligent plot keeps things nicely concealed till it twists to reveal one thing, and then another and another… shocking and delighting us at every turn.
My grouse is with the screenplay. Written by Bhardwaj and Mansi Nirmal Jain, it’s uneven, much like the film’s cinematography and scene-setting. At times smart and crackling, but also, for long spells, dull and sparse. In between the twists, Moh Maya Money needed more — lots more should happened, and some humour and pace won’t have hurt. Thankfully, the film’s two main performances are fabulous. Ranvir Shorey and real estate have a special bond. One summons the other, always. It’s as if no property deal in North India can be realised without Shorey’s presence.
He’s also bang-on as the jittery, unhappy, crabby North Indian man. Of course, Titli will forever remain my No. 1 Ranvir Shorey performance, but this one is no less engaging. It’s stunning how Shorey creates an internal cosmos and body language for all his characters and then lets so many emotions play out on his face, often at the same time. He is compelling and a delight to watch.
Neha Dhupia has a very intelligent, expressive face and great screen presence. Here she gives a single-note performance: emotionally taut, a bit drawn in and forever on the edge of getting irritated. She looks great throughout. I just wish that in the moments where she lets go of that stiffness, she could muster a few other expressions instead of making her eyebrows dance.