Starring: Agastya Nanda, Suhana Khan, Khushi Kapoor, Mihir Ahuja, Vedang Raina, Yuvraj Menda, Dot, Aly Khan
Director: Zoya Akhtar
As a film that is bursting with nepo babies, this new Netflix release seeks to turn the concept on its head with a large dose of pre-release publicity already packed into their much-hyped Bollywood launchpad. But whether the star kids born to famous celebrity families are able to make an impact on screen will determine their longevity in the film industry.
Riverdale is an idyllic town somewhere in 1960s hilly India where Anglo-Indians made a home for themselves after the British colonisers left behind a half-Indian, half-British post-independence legacy. In this green and bustling town, everyone knew each other intimately and helped each other out through the good times and bad.
At the local high school, Archie Andrews (Nanda) is heartthrob to many of his classmates – chief among them Betty Cooper (Kapoor) and Veronica Lodge (Suhana Khan). He ignores his best friend Jughead’s (Ahuja) many warnings against wooing close friends Betty and Veronica simultaneously because he is simply unable to choose one. As a result, the love triangle continues to play out amid lots of foot-tapping rock ‘n’ roll singing and dancing courtesy Archie’s band and against the backdrop of his university plans in England, utilising his grandfather’s British heritage.
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But all their innocent fun and games get a jolt when it emerges that Veronica’s millionaire father Hiram Lodge (Aly Khan) is planning to chop down trees planted by Riverdale kids in Green Park – the “lungs” of their town. The news initially creates divides among the close bunch of schoolmates but ultimately serves to unite them around a cause they are all equally passionate about. Will the teenagers succeed in saving their beloved Green Park with the requisite signatures on a petition before a looming deadline or will the local council’s attraction for big money overrule their protests?
This script crafted along the lines of a popular American comic book stays very loyal to the series while updating it to some modern-day youth sensibilities. From tackling teen sexual confusion and rebalancing patriarchal notions to climate action, Zoya Akhtar’s take on her favourite childhood comic ticks many boxes to appeal to a wide age range of audiences.
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However, in this fantasy world, there is room only for smiles and cheery optimism. Even teenage angst and rivalry is quickly overcome by all the frothy fun in store for the star kids. Without any layered characters to sink their teeth into, each of the nepo babies – from Amitabh Bachchan’s grandson Agastya and Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter Suhana to Sridevi’s youngest Khushi – simply jive their way through this light-weight script without making much of an impression.
And, that is how this film can be summed up – a quick and easy pastime watch without much of a lasting impact or repeat viewing value.