Gulshan Devaiah and Saiyami Kher in a still from Unpaused
  • Release Date: 18/12/2020
  • Cast: Gulshan Devaiah, Saiyami Kher, Komal Chhabria, Richa Chadha, Ishwak Singh, Sumeet Vyas, Lillete Dubey, Rinku Rajguru, Abhishek Banerjee, Geetika Vidya Ohlyan, Palash Prajapati, Ratna Pathak Shah, Shardul Bhardwaj
  • Director: Raj & DK, Nitya Mehra, Nikkhil Advani, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Avinash Arun Dhaware

A visual commentary on varying impacts of the pandemic on the lives of the different stratum of  society

Unpaused is an anthology of 5 unrelated stories that are tied together by one recurring theme – covid19 and its impact on the lives and relationships of a gamut of characters. The best way for me to review this film is by reviewing the individual segments of it. That will not only help me to channel my thoughts better about the specific segments and their pros and cons but would also make it easier for my readers to weigh in on the individual parts and deduce how well they add up to one cohesive whole.


In a futuristic world, Alizah (Saiyami Kher), a mute covid-warrior, and Ahan (Gulshan Devaiah), a multitalented hypo (a term coined in the future to refer to someone who is psyched about covid-19 and has completely isolated himself from the world to escape from getting infected) try to find love and comfort in each other’s company. Ahan asks himself how long does it take for a man to fall in love at first sight and by the end of the segment he gets an answer. This is my favorite segment of the entire film and it is so for the sparkling performances and the deliciously innovative and oddball story that it sets out to tell. Saiyami Kher is fast becoming my favorite Bollywood actress and after Choked she has once again exceeded the reach of her character with a performance that is as alluring as it is affecting. Her enamoring screen presence makes her the perfect heroine for a bit that depends a lot on her charm. Gulshan Devaiah hardly gets the chance to shine but here he captured my imagination with his comic timing and loveable ways within the runtime of the segment. I also felt that Glitch had the most to do with the recurring theme of the film and it is the only segment that couldn’t have been possible without the “covid-19 impact” underlining the story.

Richa Chaddha in a still from Unpaused

The Apartment:-

In this segment, Richa Chaddha plays the managing director of a successful News outlet who learns that her husband, Sumeet Vyas has molested at least 5 women in her office. These women are now planning to go after Sumit and Richa is awaiting the HR’s take on the matter. Sumeet is a star reporter and powerhouse of the channel who is not exactly easy to put down. The story unfolds in the interim period between Richa learning about her husband’s conduct, her contemplating suicide, her multiple encounters with a strange neighbor (Ishwak Singh) and ultimately taking matters into her own hands to deliver justice to the wronged women. This was for me the segment that used the covid-19 backdrop the least and would have been the same film even if it didn’t reference the pandemic. The many references to the utensils clamoring and newsreels showing Sumeet debating about which way the country was headed in terms of the pandemic and the dangers of community spread were insufficient to make the pandemic an important element of the story as it doesn’t push forward the narrative or uniquely impact it in any way. The performances by Richa Chaddha, Sumeet Vyas, and Ishwak Singh are good but this is the kind of story that I have seen a million times before and hence didn’t have any novelty for me. Nikkhil Advani tried a few variations but those turned out to be predictable and made this segment unremarkable.


A ceaselessly complaining but self-sufficient old lady, Archana (Lilette Dubey) living in a flat in Mumbai forges an interesting bond with a Maharashtrian girl, Priyanka (Rinku Rajguru). Archana shrugs off Priyanka to start with but gradually grows into her because of her simplicity, puppy-dog charm, and honest ways. Archana has an interesting and dramatically rich past that is revealed as the story progresses as she finally starts opening up to Priyanka. The girl also learns some important life lessons from Archana who she would have least expected to be a mother-figure. All this happens because the two are forced to stay indoors with no one else to reach out to but themselves during the nationwide lockdown. I loved Lilette Dubey’s act and how amazingly organic and realistic she renders her character. Rinku Rajguru is also wonderful and believable as the naïve and somewhat stupid Priyanka whose problems are very real. This track worked well because of how wonderfully the two actresses played off each other and were able to affect us with their respective dramatics.

Abhishek Banerjee in a still from Unpaused


This is my second most favorite of the five stories. Abhishek Banerjee plays a migrant laborer who is trying to get back to Rajasthan after running out of money and getting kicked out of his house by his landlord. As he tries to find a way to board transport and does odd jobs to keep his wife and child fed, he takes refuge in a palatial albeit vacant apartment where he lets loose his TikTok skills with his wife. This segment has multiple defining aspects of the pandemic interwoven in its narrative. The problems of the migrant labor, the efforts of the locals to help them but also ensuring that they capture every bit of the help that they are providing, the problems of the migrant who were victimized by ones who brought them to different cities and then abandoned them and also the voracious use of TikTok that was common in these people as they had nothing else to do. It is evident that the story beats were picked up from real-life references and people and hence felt the most organic and believable. Through Vishaanu, Avinash Arun Dhaware is able to successfully knit all these elements into a cohesive story that feels real, affecting, and in the end hauntingly tragic. Again, due credit has to be given to Abhishek Banerjee and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan (who plays his wife), who deliver knockout performances and bring to life the subtle nuances that go down a long way into making us realize the tragedies and insurmountable odds that these people faced during the pandemic.

Chand Mubarak:-

Uma (Ratna Pathak Shah) is a single old lady who is suffering from Spondylitis. One day while going for her evening medicine haul, she makes the acquaintance of Rafiq (Shardul Bharadwaj), an auto driver, and the two starts a friendship that not only shows the indomitable spirit of men to help each other during the pandemic but also drives home the message of unity in diversity in a beautiful and subtle way. This is the segment that ends the film on a high note. Both Shah and Bharadwaj are so good and their chemistry so gullible and heart-warming that this portion is immediately elevated beyond what Nitya Mehra might have aimed for. This is also the portion that in a way documents the beauty in the serenity of the quietness that covid-19 brought with it. Rafiq’s auto-driving through the vacant streets that we otherwise associate with neck to neck traffic provided some beautiful visuals. Since the two actors connected over life and different ways of living it with these settings as its backdrop, the milieu in many ways became a part of all that was unfolding in terms of the interpersonal drama.     

Ratna Pathak Shah and Shardul Bhardwaj in a still from Unpaused

Unpaused is a laudable effort that deserves to be watched. At least three of the five stories affected me as I was able to relate to the tales, characters, and their predicament. It was a welcome break from the usual fare and felt very breezy and entertaining. One can watch it as a visual commentary on the varying impacts of the pandemic on the lives of the different stratum of society.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars) 


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