The Archies, directed by Zoya Akhtar, is like a rollercoaster with all the loops removed—nostalgic but not exactly thrilling.
The main characters in The Archies, a coming-of-age film set in 1960s India, are Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Reggie, Ethel, and Dilton. The Archies examines themes of liberation, love, heartbreak, rebellion, and friendship from the perspective of the distinct Anglo-Indian community.
There's a scene in the second half of The Archies where Fred Andrews (Suhaas Ahuja) talks about welcoming Archie (Agastya Nanda) into the world just in time, when India was witnessing its freedom from British rule. The Class of '64 are the kids who were born in 1947, just like our country. Most of them live in Riverdale and belong to the Anglo-Indian community, which exists now but is rare to find.
The Archies actively explores different areas of this community, which is not only defined by a specific religion but also clearly divided by class. However, this exploration becomes an underlying theme in the form of dialogues, focusing on the rebellious teenagers who define the rock n' roll generation. They are confused yet firm about certain aspects, and one of them, which makes up for the premise of The Archies, is saving the Green Park.
The vintage garden right in the centre of Riverdale Town becomes the central theme of the film. It's an interesting topic for a film where kids fight to save a park and against their elders for the same reason. However, that cannot be the sole focus of The Archies. Unfortunately, after some hunky-dory, the film loses its plot to the extent that even happy endings don't help spread happiness among the viewers.
There's nostalgia, but only limited to props with a story that seems so long without any substance. Yes, it's the Archies based on the comic book, but at the end of every page, you do take a turn to know what happens next, or even if the characters keep the thrill intact.
But the adaptation doesn't even give you an urge to take the story up a notch. The 1960s wasn't a boring time; it was vibrant, and so were the people. A confrontation scene between Archie, Betty (Khushi Kapoor), and Veronica (Suhana Khan) is as disappointing as ice cream that melts instantly after being taken out of the freezer.
Furthermore, the intriguing dialogues do not align with the expected attitudes of the characters. Even though the cast is a treat to watch, the arcs of each character start to decline after a certain point, failing to keep up with the already dull story.
I have listened to the audio versions of the songs, and they are quite refreshing. However, all songs begin to sound the same in the film, which might lead to confusion if heard on repeat.
Talking about performances, it's a bunch of newcomers, and everyone has tried to look and play the part.
However, the one actor who definitely stands out is Vedang Raina as Reggie Mantle. He emulates the handsome character and brings the wisecracking antics of the original character. Vedang perfectly shows what Reggie demands, not letting his guard down. He plays an aspiring journalist just like his father, and the confrontation between Vedang and Luke Kenny stands out. He even manages to steal the show in his scene with Yuvraj Menda as Dilton Doiley.
Following Vedang is Suhana Khan as Veronica Lodge. She balances out as a sassy and large-hearted girl who knows her privilege but also believes that when it comes to her, everything is personal. The actor makes the switch beautifully, knowing what she wants while also being generous.
Agastya Nanda's portrayal of Archie Andrews is a charming combination of confusion and selflessness. But when it comes to performing it, the actor seems to have underplayed him a lot, resulting in him often not being the hero of the frame. Looking confused is okay, but after a point in time, you start to expect more than just a smile.
Khushi Kapoor as Betty Cooper looks like an adorable girl next door, but that's about it. The actor needs a lot of work because even in intense scenes, especially during Dear Diary sequences, the actor's performances lack depth; her facial expressions are quite limited.
The other actors—Mihir Ahuja as Jughead Jones, Dot as Ethel Muggs, and Yuvraj Menda as Dilton Doiley—play their parts well enough. But I wish there were more of them to take the story forward and that there were more angles added to their characters. However, Dot still takes the cake for crooning Dhishoom Dhishoom and Dear Diary songs.
The Archies, directed by Zoya Akhtar, has the recurring theme of showing privileges and also the absence of them in families as a collective. There's discussion about money and how some kids are outcasts.
In The Archies, the make-believe world looks quaint, and after a point, you feel like you're watching a play with no background score and the set pieces are being changed in the background. The film reminded me of one of the weakest songs from Dil Dhadakne Do, Phir Bhi Yeh Zindagi, which many don't even remember.
While the cast of The Archies rocks their retro looks, the story hits a flat note in no time.