‘Made in China’ Boldly Coaxes Viewers Into Being Unabashedly Inquisitive About Taboos and Sexuality
A middle-class businessman, dejected by his failures, goes to China with the hope to get a successful business idea and better his prospects. There, he embarks on an unusual and comical journey and finds something much better, which will change his life and a second chance in life, to get it right. Made in China is a Gujarati Entrepreneurs’ Hilarious story, from a Nepali handicraft dealer to a millionaire.
Director: Mikhil Musale
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Boman Irani, Mouni Roy, Danni Wang
Language: Hindi, Mandarin, English
Runtime: 127 minutes
The film opens with an energetic music sequence, true to the Bollywood narrative. Simultaneously, the powerful General Zeng is introduced, as he slips away from the party to consume a soup in preparation for a rendezvous with a woman. Unfortunately for him, the soup kills him and cuts the celebration short.
Middle-class Raghu (Rajkummar Rao) is an overzealous aspiring entrepreneur. Down on his luck, he goes to China where he meets Xui Lee (Danni Wang) and is presented with a shady business proposal to introduce an illegal aphrodisiac into the Indian black market. Raghu then teams up with washed up sexologist Dr Vardhi (Boman Irani) to execute a business plan that promises to change everyone’s lives while possibly threatening to ruin it in the process.
Rao is hailed as one of Bollywood’s recent best for his acting prowess and it is evident in this film. He delivers yet another memorable performance, as expected. Capturing the Gujarati accent flawlessly, he shrugs off his boyish charm to step into the shoes of a struggling middle-aged family man. Rao portrays Raghu’s insecurity and desperation to make something of himself perfectly, in moments of solitude and quiet reflection. Sultry Mouni Roy plays Rukmani, Raghu’s wife, decently with the little scope she was given.
The second half of Made In China introduces us to a different partnership altogether, namely the quirky working relationship between Dr Vardhi and Raghu. Dr Vardhi is initially portrayed as a mad-hatter, set in his ways but is quickly transformed. Boman Irani plays the grumpy sexologist to a tee who delivers most of the social messages in this film with conviction, without becoming preachy. The question and answer scene at the conference, in particular, stands out because of his commanding screen presence and comedic timing.
What starts off as a classic whodunit film, quickly digresses into a lengthy flashback. The film flip-flops between the past and the present, building anticipation towards the much awaited link that brings everything together.
The climax is a very powerful moment, belonging entirely to the chemistry between Irani and Rao. The screen lights up when the two are on screen together with many heartfelt and laugh out loud moments. The anticipation of their scenes together helped me get through some dreary parts of the film.
The film is peppered with low-lit shots of the back alleys of Ahmedabad, which I enjoyed because it perfectly represents the ethical grey area of the illegal aphrodisiac trade prevalent in India. The cinematography of the scenes shot in China is noteworthy. It successfully captures how small Raghu feels in such a big, unknown country with numerous aerial and wide-angle shots.
The screenplay presents powerful scenes in short bursts but is diluted by some unnecessary and uneven plot digressions. The script complements this and deserves props for being bold without being crude. It successfully stays clear of cringey, double-meaning innuendos, while driving the message home with intelligent metaphors.
Made in China is ultimately a bold attempt to disrupt the taboo and stigma that clouds conversations about intimacy and sex in India while simultaneously exposing the illegal aphrodisiac trade. Director Mikhil Musale intelligently takes advantage of the power of films to deliver a much needed message to the audience. That is, to be curious and adventurous with regards to sexual health and satisfaction. I found myself entertained while bringing home a social message – and that, to me, is successful cinema.