Making a family comedy about a taboo topic is not an easy task. That didn’t stop director Satram Ramani to take on the challenge in his debut feature film. Loaded with a talented cast, ‘Helmet’ has its fair share of hits and misses. The biggest win here is that the film talks about sexual health in a straightforward and matter-of-fact way, as it should be.
Desperate for money, Lucky (Aparshakti Khurana), Sultan (Abhishek Banerjee) and Minus (Ashish Verma) plan to rob a truck full of electronics. But as luck would have it, the truck they steal from doesn’t have any electronics, just boxes and boxes of condoms. How can these guys make a profit off a product that causes embarrassment and scandal at its mere suggestion? By putting on helmets (for anonymity) and recruiting community insiders for their condom MLM of sorts.
‘Helmet’ has its heart in the right place. But the resolution – the rush to move on to the answer – hinders it from exploring the question properly. As a result, the topic of sex and protection in the film’s universe is only taboo when it is convenient for the storyline. For example, it is understandably awkward to buy condoms from a judgmental pharmacy owner. But how is it less awkward to buy from your barber, employer, or colleague? The film also naively suggests that women in India, especially sex workers, have any agency in the matters of their own sexual health. Lucky telling a sex worker to simply say no to her clients who don’t practice safe sex could have been quite funny if the tone-deafness wasn’t so sad.
‘Helmet’ does feel like a knockoff version of an Ayushmann Khurrana movie, and Aparshakti Khurana’s casting only enforces this feeling. However, it would be unfair to dismiss Aparshakti’s performance as an imitation of his brother, because it isn’t. Khurana is pleasant and earnest, and even manages to find genuine emotion in the film’s cheesier, more overdramatic scenes. The same goes for the rest of the cast, even fledgling Pranutan Bahl, who make their characters seem more interesting than they are on paper. They are the heart of this movie and ‘Helmet’ has its heart in the right place.
It may not be laugh-out-loud funny or deeply insightful, but ‘Helmet’ never becomes unbearably dull either. The film could be a nice companion on days you want to watch something without focusing on it too much. Not all films have to be great, they just need to be pleasant. And ‘Helmet’, for the most part, is.