Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti's The Archies is dipped in nostalgia and repackaged as a colourful and sanitised reimagination of the 1941 American comic, Archies. Familiar characters are back, Riverdale is now set in a squeaky-clean Indian town where a small Anglo-Indian community resides. The year is 1964, Pop Tates is a popular cafe and our new gang are children of independent India; they're woke, empathetic, good-looking and proudly wear their vanity on their sleeve. Yet, it takes time for the milieu to grow on you as these seventeen-year-olds — very Indian in their looks, upbringing and thought, flaunt ’70s haircuts and ’50s lifestyles as they tool around Riverdale, unconvincingly dishing out a mix of Hindi and English, with the help of bland and lacklustre one-liners.
This reimagined Archieverse fails to keep us hooked in the orchestrated world because it does not feel real enough for us to be emotionally invested in the story. The screenplay looks like a patchwork of sorts, with each frame simply piled one upon the other in a rush to complete the project. It is severely lacking in seamlessness.
The first half an hour is dedicated to introductions -- we have Veronica Lodge (Suhana Khan), the spellbinding rich girl whose father is keen on establishing a hotel in Riverdale's Green Park, Archie Andrews (Agastya Nanda), an aspiring musician who yearns to go abroad, the docile and shy Betty Cooper (Khushi Kapoor) who pines away for Archie, Jughead (Mihir Ahuja), the wry, burger-munching sidekick and Reggie (Vedang Raina) who adds flavour to the group via his earnestness and composure.
Even as this Indian version of the American comic chucks the comics’ old clichés for a new pastiche, drawn from decades of moody teen dramas, what we sorely lack is the punch and spark of witty dialogues and strong chemistry between the characters. None of the star kids have been given meaty, cerebral lines. The most interesting aspect of the storyline is to see how Archie and his group turn into anti-capitalist activists.
The love triangle between the girl-next-door Betty, the rich-and-worldly Veronica and Archie seems shallow and there is very little chemistry between the three characters. In that sense, 'The Archies,' is more an ensemble show than the story of Archie, in which Agastya comes across as a flat, brooding bore. Archie’s gal pals are far more interesting. Sadly, The Archies invests all its efforts in trying to dazzle us with its over-the-top set designs, panoramic cinematography and show-shine peppered by its stylists, that it fails to give us a meaty story and a seamlessly moving screenplay.
This saccharine world somehow feels too sweet; maybe a dash of masala would have done the film some good.
Directors: Zoya Akhtar, Ryan Brophy
Writers: Farhan Akhtar, Zoya Akhtar, Ayesha DeVitre, John L. Goldwater, Reema Kagti
Stars: Agastya Nanda, Khushi Kapoor, Suhana Khan, Vedang Raina, Mihir Ahuja
Running Time: 2h 21m