The "unexpected visitor" genre of films can hardly be called under-populated. "Six Degrees of Separation" comes to mind. There is even our own "Bawarchi".
These films are always about misplaced trust and they unfold in the following manner: a stranger enters a tightly-knit family (or a group - think Yoko Ono and Long John Silver), the initial mistrust slowly dissolves (one of the characters has a weakness that the stranger "reads" well) and the stranger, who is now accepted by the family, goes on to play one member of the family against the other and this ultimately has consequences. Whether the consequence is pleasant like in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" or tragic like in "Being Cyrus", the message is the same: never let a stranger in.
Unfortunately, the film does not fulfill the genre's expectations.
My first grouse with the film is its characterization. There are no real characters in the film, only caricatures. Granted, film-makers sometimes use broad characterizations with an end in mind. Like in animation movies, fairy tales or even straightforward murder mysteries. Directors also sometimes deploy such characters for parodic purposes.
But what to make of the characters in this film? Remember the stereotypical Parsi of bad Bollywood films? He is back, more miserly, crankier and crazier than ever before. The director clearly loves whimsical characters. He loves them so much that when the story has nowhere to go, he unleashes the "Parsi experience" on the audience for comic relief. Just because the awesome Boman Irani can curse in Parsi does not make his character interesting. It also does not push the story forward.
My second grouse is again with characterization.
A noir-drama requires clear character-motives. Noir does not exist without motive. (Noir without motive is like a cat without its meow. I said that.) For nearly 30 minutes into "Being Cyrus", I struggled to understand the characters' motives. Which is ok. Motives could be hidden from the audience to heighten the suspense (and then suddenly revealed for a stomach-churning betrayal.) But just when the motives started becoming clear, that darned comic relief started breaking out like buttercups in spring: the cop with the "disallocated shoulder", Boman Irani's encounter with the little dog. Why?
The ramblin' Cyrus (he even quotes Tolstoy at one point) is nothing better than a psychotic android, if you think about it. But what is his real motive? Revenge? Money? Sex? I can't say for sure. But I think the film-maker wants us to sympathize with him. Sympathy comes with understanding. Help me understand the character's wants and needs and then maybe I will feel sorry for him, yeah?
Maybe the film should not have been named after Cyrus, but after another key character. After all, it is this (semi-central) character's desires that set the ball into play. I will not name the character to avoid spoilers. How much tighter the focus would have been and how much more story possibility lay in that choice. It could have been a fine tale of greed, revenge and manipulation. Instead, it turned out to be a so-so, "give him an A for effort, yaar" film.
At least it's a "so-so, A for effort, yaar" 90-minute film. "Being Cyrus" tastes like chicken dhansak that was taken off the stove a little too early.
But tell you what, I am not staying back for that vasanu.
Ha ha, I got two Parsi references in there. Clever of me. Exactly.