“Hi, I’m Freddy Ginwala…Are you Shirin Mistry? This is Freddy, Freddy Ginwala,” the Parsi titular character of Hotstar’s latest film says to himself over and over at the Mumbai cafe he frequents, as he struggles to figure out the perfect icebreaker for his next doomed date, much to the amusement of everyone around him.
It is through this palpable awkwardness that director Shashanka Ghosh and writer Parveez Shaikh set the scene in Freddy, starring mainstay Bollywood leading man Kartik Aaryan as the protagonist, Freddy Ginwala.
A dentist from Mumbai who belongs to a wealthy Parsi family, Ginwala has been in search of a soulmate for the better part of five years. But his general social ineptitude, seemingly creepy vibe, and inability to make conversation keep getting the better of him.
Despite the best efforts of a handful of older Parsi aunties in his life, he never seems to have made it through a first date smoothly. He lacks a social scene outside of his dentist day job, leaving him with his toy painting hobby and his pet turtle, Hardy, as his sole companions.
As a result, the desperation to meet “the one” leads him to pursue a toxic relationship laced with subterfuge and domestic violence, marking Ginwala’s descent into incel madness and bringing in the film’s slasher elements, as advertised.
Kartik Aaryan seems committed to evoking second-hand embarrassment for his character without ever really captivating or convincing you about his heel turn, despite the somber tone that Ghosh and Shaikh have gone with.
And perhaps the tone of the film is the biggest issue here.
Taking a more black comedy approach may have served this character and the entire material better than the illogical yet deadly serious path the filmmakers actually went down. Ultimately, Freddy is a genre hodgepodge of romantic thriller and slasher elements, somewhat reminiscent of Todd Phillips’ take on Joker (2019), but with a far worse narrative structure and weaker thematic content.
But this film does have a few things going for it as well, aside from Aaryan’s serviceable, if unspectacular, performance. Much like Freddy Ginwala himself, the rest of the motley crew of characters on show are also Parsis of Mumbai, and some are played by Parsi actors too, such Aaryan’s co-star, Alaya Furniturewala of Jawaani Jaaneman fame. These characters had an air of authenticity to the setting but their arcs are thin and secondary to the violence in the second half.
Be it the references to matrimonial apps, the cafe settings, or the raspberry sodas, there are a fair few nominal jabs at Parsi economic privilege as well as the community’s apparent insularity when it comes to seeking friends and romantic partners.
Given the more serious thriller take Ghosh and Shaikh went with, perhaps it would have been prudent to explore the theme deeper instead of devolving into the cliched twists and turns that often plague streaming-exclusive dramas.
When all is said and done, as we are treated to an incongruous Kartik Aaryan’s dance number in the end credits, Freddy could have been intriguing but squandered its genre-bending potential to serve up something that’s a mere time-pass.
(Edited by Tarannum Khan)