Zoya Akhtar has a knack for pleasant surprises when you least expect them. We often succumb to the presumptuous temptation of pigeonholing her works. Her critics often cite that the world she often resorts to is not necessarily ‘relatable.’ A criticism I do not tend to agree with. Even if we pick the works where she primarily traverses through the obscenely privileged class (“Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara,” Dil Dhadakne Do,” and “Made in Heaven” etc.), there is an overarching undercurrent in those films that is universal.

Friendship and life in the case of “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.” Familial love in “Dil Dhadakne Do.” Underneath the vanilla-soaked decors and glitz, Akhtar’s deft direction never made any of her works feel vapid. Until “The Archies.” Akhtar, who admitted to being a fan of the popular American comic book series, “Archie,” had the most allowance to be frivolous here than she ever did before. “Archie” is light-hearted and breezy. Surely it is okay to be the same while adapting it. And it is. But Akhtar also wanted this adaptation to be the launching pad of some of the star kids of Bollywood. Leaving the nepotism debate aside, it is this casting that proves to be dear to the film. It seemed that Akhtar was worried to fully commit to the essence of the film, lest it exposed the fallible nature of the leading cast.

Yes, the unfortunate criticism I can think of is that Zoya Akhtar was her most restrained directorial self for a story that asked her to be ridiculously whimsical. Under the guise of being light-hearted and breezy, “The Archies” was Akhtar at her most tentative. It seems that she felt the need to resort to well-choreographed dance numbers immediately after a scene that could prove to be demanding (acting-wise) for the leading trio – resorting to the skills that Agastya Nanda, Suhana Khan, and Khushi Kapoor do have.

As a result, “The Archies” couldn’t become the cheery, light-hearted trip-down-the-memory-lane young adult fare it had wanted to become. “The Archies” revolves around the leading trio of Archie Andrews (Agastya Nanda), Betty Cooper (Khushi Kapoor), and Veronica Lodge (Suhana Khan). Most of the Archie comic fans know that. Set in the 1960s fictional Indian town, ‘Riverdale,’ this ‘Archie’ world is the world of Anglo-Indians. Akhtar, along with co-writers Reema Kagti and Ayesha Devitre Dhillon, did a good job of painting a glimpse of a perpetually vanishing demographic. To the writers’ credit, they tailored the ‘Archie’ characters well into the Anglo-Indian community.

The Archies (2023) Movie Review
A still from The Archies (2023)

Apart from all the high-school shenanigans featuring Archie’s gang and the love triangle of Archie-Veronica-Betty, Akhtar tried to infuse the problems of ‘adulthood.’ Archie would love to go to London to pursue his musical aspirations further. But Riverdale still pulls him back. Then there is Hiram Lodge’s (Veronica’s father) capitalist aspirations putting a dent in Veronica’s relationships with her less privileged friends. Archie’s aversion to politics, Dilton’s (Yuvraj Menda) sexuality, and many other ‘serious’ issues kept popping up intermittently to remind us that these youngsters are on their way to adulthood, where it cannot be all sunshine anymore. Akhtar had the right idea in that regard. But, alas!

Agastya Nanda had the most scope as the male lead, Archie Andrews. And unfortunately, that makes his failings all the more glaring. Nanda struggled to make Archie earnest but confused; his Archie became dull and flat. For someone singing and dancing in so many numbers, Nanda would also need some more lip-syncing lessons. Both Suhana Khan and Khushi Kapoor also hardly showed signs that could mark them as the next best things. The three star-kids were rigid and stiff in most of their scenes. Khan would be my pick, if I have to, to say the best among the worst.

The scene where Veronica confronted her father did show some promise from Khan. The supporting cast was quite good. Vedang Raina’s Reggie and Mihir Ahuja’s Jughead would be the best of the young actors’ offerings. The adult acting cast did their bit as well. In fact, at one point, it would seem that the supporting cast is doing the leading part, whereas the leading cast is mostly there for the experience. “The Archies” also lacked memorable songs, and that is a big sin for a Bollywood musical. “Sunoh” and “Va Va Voom” were noteworthy, but for a film with eleven tracks, that is not enough.

Read More: The Archies: Cast & Characters Explained, Plot, Release Date, Time, Where to Watch, Trailer & Other Details

The Archies (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
Cast of The Archies (2023) Movie: Agastya Nanda, Khushi Kapoor, Suhana Khan, Vedang Raina, Mihir Ahuja, Aditi “Dot” Saigal, Yuvraj Menda
The Archies (2023) Movie Genre: Romance, Drama, Comedy | Runtime: 2h 21m
Where to watch The Archies

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