It has been a good season (2017-2018) for Asian mockumentaries, with titles like “Mehsampur” and “Top Knot Detective” screening in many festivals around the world, with quite good response by the audiences. “Buddha.mov continues this slight “trend” in the best fashion.
In a rather masochistic writer’s tendency, I have to admit I enjoy writing the crazy synopses mockumentaries usually entail, so here I go. The story focuses on former Indian cricketer Buddhadev Mangaldas, who happens to be a celebrity in Goa and a distant cousin of the director of “Buddha.mov” and his life a bit before and after his retirement from cricket. Mehta follows his subject quite closely, as we see him training, taking showers, and having intercourse with a different woman every night (or day for that matter), in different locations. Mangaldas is revealed as somewhat of a social media addict, almost constantly chatting about his life and particularly his conquests on the web, but at the same time proves to be a bit conservative, worrying about his family’s reactions to the things he posts and to his wish of becoming a movie star. Eventually, however, he decides to follow the profession of his mother, and become a real estate agent.
Kabir Mehta directs a mockumentary, where “mock” seems to be the main ingredient of a story that lingers between reality and imagination. In that fashion, a plethora of attitudes, concepts and practices are mocked repeatedly in the film. Probably the most central one is social media, with Mehta having Mangaldas indulging in the silliness of the various media as much as possible, as we watch him posting on Tinder, watching videos titled “Best Reality Fights 3” and having someone named Phoebe Kudrow (an obvious “Friends” reference) replying on him on Facebook. (The profile actually exists btw).
The narcissism and the shallowness of the “stars” is another central one, with Mangaldas presenting it in all its glory, both through his actions (particularly regarding women) and his talks with various individuals, where he appears to be the only one that speaks, without ever actually listening.
The first aspect also seems to mock the whole debate regarding the role of women in contemporary society, as Mehta makes a point of presenting all women as objects of pleasure, without focusing on them at all, with the tactic extending to the way the sex scenes are presented, almost exclusively through long shots.
Through this tactic, Mehta also mocks cinema and the movie industry, particularly the conservatism occasionally associated with it, as his long shots of the sex scenes come in complete contrast to the lengthy, close shots portraying Mangaldas completely nude. The stolen-footage style implemented through Reebok Singh’s cinematography also moves towards this direction, while one of the most hilarious moments comes when Mangaldas utters the phrase “Festivals love this class shit” referring to a movie he would like to shoot. Featuring many shots where the screen is split by what is happening in reality and what on Mangaldas’s phone, Mehta keeps the narrative quite engaging, not allowing the spectator to look away from the screen, in fear of losing one of the torrenting “events” that occur, with his own editing also moving in the same path, inducing the film with a rather fast pace.
Either in portraying his actual life or a movie part, Buddhadev Mangaldas is exceptional, in a dual role that has him leading and being led by the film, all the while exposing himself as much as possible, both literally and metaphorically.
Not much else to say, “Buddha.mov” is excellent as it is unusual, and a must see for all fans of mockumentaries and mocking in general, as much as for those enjoying intelligent irony.