Halfway into the film, Raghuvir Mehta, (Rajkummar Rao) asks his wife Rukmini (Mouni Roy) if she feels satisfied with a nervous look on his face. She says yes, thinking he is asking about her life in general. Raghuvir tries again, and again, and again until she finally understands he really means, "Are you sexually happy?"
In the climax, during an inquiry, the word "sex" is termed as a "bad word." If we look back at our history and culture, this notion has been ingrained into our fabric. Why is sex treated differently from other normal human activities like eating, sleeping, and walking? Isn't it a part of life too? Why do we still consider the very word 'sex' as taboo? These are the questions Made In China asks.
An aspect of the film that I particularly enjoyed is how the writers, Niren Bhatt and Karan Vyas, take two completely diverse ideas and meld them into an engaging tale. Raghuvir Mehta, a struggling businessman, just cannot seem to earn his break. Despite having a family-run business to fall back on, he wants to earn his bread by standing on his own feet, owing to his love for entrepreneurship. As we wade through the initial phase of the film waiting for Raghuvir to find his stride, an unexpected visit to China opens doors. He finds a convincing aphrodisiac product. He finds a partner. He finds a mentor. And at last, his confidence.
After spending quite a lot of time on this setup, the film finally picks up. Raghuvir returns with a plan but realises that there are many pieces of the puzzle missing. Branding, marketing, sales, and most importantly, a sexologist to partner with.
Boman Irani chips in well in his supporting role as Dr Vardhi. He first brushes Raguvir away. But persistence from the latter eventually gets him on board. I quite liked the rawness with which Boman plays his character. He's open to talking about performance issues. He delivers a monologue about the film's thesis in a packed auditorium. His characterisation of Dr Vardhi comes through with passion, just what Raghuvir is looking for.
Rajkummar Rao plays his role with the right mix of dignity and confidence. Think of yourself as a businessman who keeps failing, and then you finally make progress. From being the most beaten down, vulnerable character to the most confident and swaggering man towards the end, it's quite a transition to make, and he does it with charm.
But, but, but... every protagonist must have an obstacle to overcome. And the obstacle Raghuvir and Dr Vardhi battle comes in the form of a dead Chinese minister and a false accusation, which sets up a twist that I could see coming from many miles away.
The film is light-hearted with a fair share of comedy that continues pretty much until right before the climax, even when the chips seem down. We are quite aware of the knots in the society that the film is trying to expose. The next step we expect the film to answer is, "What are we going to do about it?" But by this point, the texture of the film is so light because of the comedy that preceded, that the seriousness of the answers do not make much of an impact.
However, on the whole, Made in China is a fairly entertaining watch coupled with a socially-relevant message. But the lack of a more intense approach pulls down the characters and their scope to evolve. But in a culture where biology teachers teach human anatomy and the reproductive system after shutting the classroom doors and windows, if a mainstream film can normalise it, I don't see how it can hurt.
(This story originally appeared on cinemaexpress.com)
Film: Made in China
Director: Mikhil Musale
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Boman Irani, Mouni Roy
Rating: 2.5 stars