The Hindi movie The Archies is directed by Zoya Akhtar and stars Mihir Ahuja, Dot, Khushi Kapoor, Suhana Khan, Yuvraj Menda, Agastya Nanda, Vedang Raina
Where can you watch The Archives in the UAE?
The Archies is currently streaming on Netflix in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
When some of the young ones from the biggest Bollywood families (Bachchan, Khans, and Kapoors) make their acting debut in the same movie, it is bound to trigger extreme curiosity.
The Bollywoodization of a beloved American comic, Archies, has been popular among the young set for decades, making it all the more interesting. Directed by Zoya Akhtar, who organically understands the vibes and ways of the modern urban youth, makes The Archies the real cynosure.
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Straight up, you are intrigued that The Archies, dripping with quintessential American ethos, is reimagined here among the Anglo-Indian community, the curious group who are otherwise known to be British in their spirit and sensibility. But The Archies, set in the mid-1960s, couldn’t have been located among any other community, especially in a fictional place called ‘Riverdale’ in India. You understand these creative compulsions of the director Zoya Akhtar, who it should be said has done a smart job of rethinking American young adults in an Indian setting.
It takes a lot of inventive leaps to Indianise these famed characters, but the writing of Reema Kagti, Zoya Akhtar, and Ayesha Devitre pulls it off without much problem. And the music, with its pulsating riffs, adds the extra layer that brings all the youthful exuberance alive. The musical — songs are by Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy, Ankur Tiwari, The Islanders and Aditi Saigal while the background score is credited to S-E-L and Jim Satya — is decidedly filled with American gusto as the dance numbers Sam the Sham and the Pharaoh‘s Wooly Bully show. Not to forget, there is also a song about Sinatra, and all of them have been winsomely choreographed.
Okay, we know you are getting impatient to know about the characters like Archie, Veronica, Betty, Jughead, and Reggie, the ones with which much of our youthhood was filled. Zoya not only gives them an Indian twist in their emotional core but has also been unafraid to tweak their sensibilities. For instance, Archie and Reggie are not, unlike in the comics, having a go at each other constantly. If anything, Archie (Agastya Nanda) and Reggie (Vedang Raina) care for each other, and the latter shows a lot of sensitivity that one wouldn’t associate with his character in the original.
Betty (Khushi Kapoor), named after Queen Elizabeth, and Veronica (Suhana Khan) have their problems, but this is all about friendship and fun. So, nothing is allowed to fester or become big. Archie, of course, has difficulty choosing between the two. But that is the point of the whole comic. The pleasure of the unresolved idea.
Jughead (Mihir Ahuja), of course, loves food — some things are too sacrosanct to be twisted even in an adaptation — but he is not an unthinking happy-go-lucky guy. Here, he has some emotional heft, and that works well. The exchanges and emotional splits happen, but nothing is beyond salvage, camaraderie and bonhomie salvage everything. The Archie comics regulars Ethel Muggs (Aditi Saigal aka DOT), Moose Mason (Rudra Mahuvarkar), and Dilton Doiley (Yuvraj Menda) also add to the mirth.
Rather than focus on the youth alone, the film also makes bold to grapple with larger community issues like freedom of the press, social and political values and, of course, ecology and commerce. Veronica’s rich father, Lodge (Alyy Khan), has a business plan that is at cross purposes with the green concerns of the small community. But, in the film’s spirit, nothing really goes out of hand, and there are no outright baddies in this fairytale land.
The young debutants are all full of spunk and energy, and the film does not demand too much from them, their characters, with their urban feel and fervour, are not something too difficult for them to manage. Khushi Kapoor has the presence that her late mom and now his sister have shown. Suhana Khan, even if a bit gawky, is cool, and so is Agastya Nanda, who exhibits the flair that the role of ‘Archikens’ requires. Mihir Ahuja’s comic skills are the best of the lot, and his reaction to the much-loved comic character is spot on.
The Archies’ sensibilities are enriched by the production design and the cool camera work of Nikos Andritsakis. A film based on a comic book, full of foreign fervour and filled with ‘nepotist’ kids, can be easy to criticize. But Zoya and her team keep it breezy and light and actually make it easy to like.
An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.