Crew: Watch it to bask in the glory of the leading ladies

Bollywood has finally begun to reimagine its heroines in ways that are morally spicy


Badhaai ho! Congratulations!

Bollywood has finally begun to reimagine its heroines in ways that are morally spicy, a bit naughty and entertaining as hell.

Director Rajesh Krishnan’s Crew, starring Tabu, Kareena Khan Kapoor and Kriti Sanon in the lead, is a spunky, funny caper powered by their sharp comic timing, sexy swag and the audacity to play badass characters with a lusty pout and zany playfulness.

Written by by Nidhi Mehra and Mehul Suri, the film uses the unravelling of Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines as its backdrop, and its plot is somewhat inspired by Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's 11, 12 etc. Yet the crackling chemistry of Crew’s leading ladies, their bitchy comments and heart-warming friendship makes Crew feel like it’s the beginning of Bollywood’s first female, feminist franchise. I am looking forward to and expecting the announcement of a sequel soon.

Crew is set in an airline, Kohinoor, that is run by its chairman, Vijay Walia (Saswata Chatterjee). Geeta Sethi (Tabu), Divya Rana (Kriti Sanon), and Jasmine (Kareena Kapoor Khan) are air hostesses and friends. We meet them as they are being dragged off a flight by customs officials to look for the gold they were allegedly smuggling.

As they are being frisked and interrogated, the film goes into flashback to introduce us to these women's lives, their dreams and varying degrees of desperation for money.

Geeta is married to Arun (Kapil Sharma), a chef who tries to earn some money through his cloud kitchen. But their house really runs on Geeta's salary. Jasmine, brought up by her loving Nanu (maternal grandfather), decided early on not to nurse any qualms. Instead, she developed a taste for luxury and learnt how to make money on the side and not be a bechari (helpless). 

Divya, a trained pilot, has been living a lie. Every morning she dresses up as a pilot, says ta-ta, bye-bye to her proud parents, but, at the airport changes into her air hostess uniform —a short red skirt, a red jacket and a blue fascinator.

There’s been no salary for the airline staff for over six months. Their per diem has been shrinking, and Geeta keeps asking about her PF. The film’s screenplay uses the very familiar story of a fancy-shmancy airline that is slowly going bankrupt to show how it is impacting the staff and their lives. 

We also watch the terribly sexist and frustrating side of life of air hostesses as they rush about in narrow aisles responding to requests, serving tea and meals while dealing with men who think a casual pat, or crude behaviour is their right. And then, suddenly, on a flight one day, a senior crew member collapses. As Geeta begins to administer CPR, a solution to their life’s problems appears, strapped to the dead man's chest.

The first part of Crew has a lot of energy and bounce as we watch these three women who, instead of surrendering their dreams and desires to their fate and the chairman’s chicanery, decide to take charge. 

And when they succeed, these women, fed up with asking, “Veg or Non-Veg, sir?” don't just exhale and fulfil their familial responsibilities. Instead, they dress-up, and say cheers to their youthful ambition. The film dips a bit after the interval, and takes some time to recover. The heist they plan and execute feels rushed and runs more on their bluster than logic, Tabu, Kareena and Kriti pull it off with their acting prowess, chutzpah and high glamour quotient.

For decades, women’s desire in Bollywood has only been sexual. And it has been choreographed, captured and served mostly for male gratification, the camera acting as a lecherous man’s gaze, and instructing it. 

Crew’s women have a pecking order of responsibilities and desires in which all things male and sexual sit right at the bottom. In fact, there's a tongue-in-cheek knowingness in Crew of how to titillate, and it throws in lots of cleavage, shapely midriffs and casual sex rather casually. It treats all these as a part of the package of the new, empowered, enterprising woman who wears what she likes and knows the effect it has on men but doesn’t really care.  

Rajesh Krishnan, who made the 2020 film, Lootcase, starring Kunal Khemu and Rasika Dugal, is good at pulling off greedy, shady, secret enterprises. Crew's plot could have been tighter, and slicker. But that’s a writing flaw and he tries to make up for it by using the film’s strength — its lead actresses and the supporting cast — to carry the film's second half. The problems show, but they don’t really matter because we are emotionally invested in the lives of these men and women.

Kapil Sharma is good, and Diljit Dosanjh, who plays Kriti Sanon's love interest, is fabulous. He lights up the screen with his joyous mix of earthy sincerity and unpredictability. Both he and Kapil Sharma remain on the sidelines, where they add a touch of reality.  

Kriti Sanon is efficient and delivers, but she feels like a lightweight next to Tabu and Kareena. There is, perhaps, no other actress in India today who incites the sort of excitement that Tabu does. She is gorgeous, and her performances are often memorable. But what makes the screen sizzle is her intellectual oomph and a tight embrace of her character’s desires. The darker they get, the better she is.

In Crew, her calmpose-popping senior air hostess is the centre of gravity. Her Geeta grounds the film and is the glue that keeps the gang of three together. Kareena Khan Kapoor’s Jasmine is the real badass here, and she plays the part with so much chutzpah and lust for life that she keeps grabbing the film and making it her own.

We may well be in the golden era of Bollywood as far as its actresses are concerned. A very talented, confident bunch, many of them are no longer interested in playing the 3-songs-5-dress-changes game. Instead, they are taking risks and playing characters who can talk dirty, act naughty and wear shades of grey, like accessories.

Watch Crew to bask in their glory. 

Cast: Tabu, Kareena Khan Kapoor, Kriti Sanon, Diljit Dosanjh, Kapil Sharma, Saswata Chatterjee, Rajesh Sharma 

Directior: Rajesh Krishnan

Rating: 3.5

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