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Review: ‘Shit, Yaar!’ Doesn’t Know What To Do With Its Cast Of Oddball Characters

By Prathyush Parasuraman 13 July 2021

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Two friends, both in their late 20s, quit their 9-5s to become entrepreneurs and pitch an app idea to a seed investor. What could go wrong? A lot, if Disney+ Hotstar’s new action-comedy series Shit, Yaar!—directed by Jay Bhansali—is anything to go by.

Comedian Sahil Shah plays Raj, the cautious one of the duo—saying no before the question is even asked, firmly rooted in his comfort zone. His best friend Yash (Sayandeep Sengupta) is the persuasive one, who has ideas and pursues them even after they stop making sense. The humour is located in their exaggerated characterisation—Raj keeps peeing, Yash keeps dreaming.

They are in Goa to pitch their app, and disappointed by the rejection, they drink—well Yash does, Raj is fasting—and on their way back get entangled with a drug cartel. The Interpol somehow gets involved. What follows is a series of meandering escapades over 19 ten-minute episodes. As Yash notes, they become a walking-talking example of Murphy’s law—anything that can go bad, does go bad. 

The episode run-time is a function of the humour (as well as the Quix platform that hosts it). The jokes here have no patience for elaborate setups or big pay-offs. For example, when a gangster looking at CCTV footage says “zoom zoom zoom”, the man in charge of the footage takes his face closer to the gangster as if it were his face that was being asked to zoom into. We can laugh at what this was trying to do, but in the end it’s a swing and a miss.

Similarly, a rapper boyfriend calls his girlfriend, investigating officer Balwinder (Priyasha Bhardwaj), in the middle of her investigative work to spit some rotten rhymes. That kind of self-consciously quirky humour, especially if it isn’t particularly absurd or blasphemous, cannot sustain longform entertainment (see, for example: Sunflower).

We get 19 episodes of attempted comedy, and not one single laugh.

Balwinder, the only character that plays it straight, has her dryness compensated for by placing her in the middle of constant chaos—there are gangsters she is tailing, two innocent men implicated by the gangsters whose story she needs to set straight, the Interpol poised to take over her case, a mother who wants her married, a rapper boyfriend, boring marriage suitors, and office intrigue, where she might have someone in her ranks betraying the force. Every time Balwinder shows up on screen, there is an onslaught of the above side-plots, none of which do anything to prop up a character so uninteresting and unappealing on paper, it was a wonder it survived the first draft.

The gangsters—imaginatively named Sunny and Honey (Vrajesh Hirjee and Rajesh Khera)—always have a mask covering half their face and dress in spiffy coats, soft stoles, and gold, like Prabhu Deva villains. There is also the regular fare of kohl-eyed, guttural Al Khuraks and Taufiqs, and a larger crime syndicate at work. The humour again is entirely located in who these characters are, and not what they do or say, which is, in a nutshell, the problem with the writing of the show. They forgot that humour needs more than funny characters, and funny gestures. It needs an actual plot—the classic dynamic of buildup and eventual release. Instead we get 19 episodes of attempted comedy, and not one single laugh. 

There is a directionless quality to the writing, going wherever it wants, Murphy’s Law-ing the proceedings, padded by a background score that leans into the quirk—opera music, old Hindi songs, and soft strings played in moments that are anything but operatic, nostalgic, or romantic. The acidic colour correction gives it a comic book aesthetic, but this deliberate manipulation of colour is so overdone that it almost feels like genre cliche.

In one of the initial episodes, both Raj and Yash find themselves in the back of a drug cartel track, mistaking grenades for avocados. Painted on the back the truck is an adage which reads, “roses are red, violets are blue, tere lagne wale hai but have no clue.”

It’s an oddly perfect epitaph for the show—the deliberately off-kilter grammar, the familiar rhyme, the promise of chaos, the expectation of humour; all dashed at the altar of short-form entertainment designed for an attention span that cannot differentiate between being entertained and being engaged.

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