Star kids have charm and panache in this Anglo-Indian American tinted school saga…
HIGHLY anticipated is a word being much used in association with ‘The Archies’.
It dropped on Netflix earlier today (December 7 and was embargoed until 8am GMT) – and it’s really rather good.
It isn’t our usual cup of chai but it is entertaining, fun and has some passion and force behind it all make it worth your while.
Yes, it is aimed at educated, urbanised, globalised youth and trades on a certain understanding of the original US comic series of the same name.
‘The Archies’ isn’t a big deal in the UK and isn’t particularly well-known – if we said ‘The Beano’ and Dennis The Menace we would be on firmer ground, probably.
Director Zoya Akhtar isn’t going there…haha, at least not yet.
Clearly, this is a world familiar to her generation and those of her status – ie folks not on the breadline and with a certain access to western culture and its byproducts (as the comic series was).
It is essentially about a bunch of kids trying to find themselves and their identity – they are Anglo-Indians – now strictly speaking this is usually an English or British father and an Indian mother.
There was a sizeable community at one time especially in the latter part of the Raj in the 20th century.
Setting it in English influenced or orientated hill station gives Akhtar certain licence and so does making them Anglo- Indian.
About 50 per cent of the original dialogue is in English and the rest is subtitled Hindi – so it is all very user friendly to British audiences.
We can’t reveal too much about the story without giving the whole thing away – but it’s a good yarn and brings this motley collection of young people together.
The story really revolves around three major characters – Archie (Agastya Nanda), Betty/Bets (Khushi Kapoor) and Veronica (Suhana Khan). Now to uninitiated these are just names of actors they have not heard of before…well, Nanda is the grandson of legend Amitabh Bachchan; Kapoor is the daughter of the late Srivdevi, another screen legend; and Khan is none other than the daughter of King Khan himself, Shah Rukh Khan.
How do they fare? Commendably we would say and there is a strong supporting cast too Jughead (Mihir Ahuja), Reggie Mantle (Vedang Raina), Ethel Muggs (Dot) and Dilton Doiley (Yuvraj Menda). Most of these have very little acting experience – Ahuja has some but the rest are pretty much like the star kids newcomers.
There is a good vibe and chemistry between them all – there is also a good adult cast supporting them – most notably Alyy Khan as Veronica’s Dad.
While the fun and drama is of a high quality, we are less sure about the music – it’s fine but not quite as superlative as the rest. In our interview with Akhtar she talks about this – here. It isn’t bad but the mix of Hindi and English and soft rock and roll doesn’t always work, we feel. The choreography is good and does uphold the film’s relatively high standards.
The sets and everything do this all justice and if you want to lose yourself for two and half hours with India’s coming GenZ, this is a good film to do it.
What will be interesting is the overall reaction – this works for western diaspora audiences quite familiar with the more general culture – whether it’s different enough or that reminder of ‘home’ some need is highly debateable. But these are not major quibbles.
What will these talented young actors do next? And will Akhtar herself take them on that journey… (Sailesh Ram)
ACV rating: **** (out of five)
‘The Archies’ is out from Netflix today (December 7)
Top picture: Betty/Betts (Khushi Kapoor) and Veronica (Suhana Khan); below Archie (Agastya Nanda) in ‘The Archies’
All pictures Courtesy Netflix ©2023
Our interview with Zoya Akhtar director is here