Rarely do I wish that an Indian film was longer, given that the majority are nearly two-and-a-half hours long. But Being Cyrus, which runs only 89 minutes, seems far too short to give its damaged characters time to develop. Or maybe the characters and story were poorly conceived to begin with, and no amount of time would’ve allowed them to develop.
The presumptive lead character of the film is the titular Cyrus (Saif Ali Khan), an adult orphan who answers an ad for an artist’s assistant. The artist is Dinshaw Sethna (Naseeruddin Shah), a recluse so stoned that he doesn’t recall placing the ad. Dinshaw’s horny, attention-starved wife, Katy (Dimple Kapadia), insists that Cyrus move in with them and be their errand boy.
Early on, the film relies heavily on Cyrus’ narration (in English) to explain the complex relationships within the Sethna family. The withered patriarch, Fardounjee (Honey Chhaya), lives in squalor under the care of Dinshaw’s cruel and cheap industrialist brother, Farrokh (Boman Irani), and Farrokh’s meek young wife, Tina (Simone Singh). Dinshaw, again, is too stoned to care what’s happening to his dad.
Katy gives Cyrus a stack of cash and sends him to the city to bring treats to poor old Fardounjee. This angers Farrokh. However, Farrokh and Katy are carrying on a romantic affair over the phone. I’m not sure why she’d want to intentionally piss off her beloved, but there’s an awful lot about Being Cyrus that doesn’t make sense.
Following the introduction of an annoying police inspector played by Manoj Pahwa, Cyrus goes on a killing spree before the film culminates in an unforeseeable twist ending. (Damn you, The Usual Suspects, for spawning a generation of inferior twist endings!) There’s no possible way events could’ve been managed to work out the way they did, despite the claims of Cyrus’ accomplice to have controlled everything. There’s not even an attempt at retroactive continuity.
For a twist ending to work, there need to be clues to the ending sprinkled throughout the story. Being Cyrus doesn’t have any of those clues, nor even a narrative thread to speak of. Rather, the film jumps from scene to scene randomly. Most of the notes I wrote while watching the DVD consist of: “How did we get here?” and “Why is this happening?”.
Things would be different if Being Cyrus was a sophisticated or complex movie, but it’s not. It’s the messy first effort of director-screenwriter Homi Adajania, whose debut is light on context and character motivation.
Watching the loathsome, anemic characters of Being Cyrus bumble through the disjointed plot is a grim, unpleasant experience I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, no matter how brief the punishment may be.