Harmless

A girl plans her own kidnapping to spite her father.

Genre: Crime

Length: 19:36

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3 out of 5 stars

Producer/s : Vishesh Mankal,

Director/s : Vishesh Mankal, 

Writer/s : Vishesh Mankal, 

Actor/s : Vaishnavi Rao, Aniruddha Khanwilkar

 

Harmless fun

The basic premise of Harmless is a spin on the timeless self-kidnapping trope: the son or daughter of a rich man fakes their own kidnap, and pockets the ransom. Harmless, right? You’re going to inherit it anyway, one day. It’s like an advance.

Here, Vaishnavi Rao plays the amoral Monalisa with gusto. She wants an adventure, and wants to spite her grouchy father. Aniruddha Khanwilkar gives her friend and co-conspirator Adhir a simple charm. The potential of romance between them is not only plausible, but something most audiences would want to see. Trouble is, the story veers away from being a romcom.

It has comic potential, mind: Adhir promises to keep her like a princess through her “captivity”, but he doesn’t have the money, so she ends up funding it. When he says to himself “I should have kidnapped someone else,” we smile, and nod. Things go wrong when Dad refuses to pay up… until he changes his mind for no apparent reason, and the story falls short as a caper comedy.

There’s a tasteless subplot in which Monalisa wants to them to beat up her heartless boyfriend. This brutal attack, and her unsavoury joy afterwards, lose the audience’s sympathy. Harmless she definitely isn’t. This film could have turned out as a dark exploration of a-morality, but the ending brings us back into romcom territory, so we’ve lost that theme too.

It’s all competently shot, edited and acted. Harmless entertains, and it doesn’t drag, as shown by a whole bunch of festival selections. But it doesn’t know whether it wants to be a romcom, a caper, or an existential investigation of morality and fate. So, sadly, it amounts to less that it might.